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Federal Court Cases Become Spectator Event

FLickr - Kevin Goebel

If spectator seats in a federal court could be sold like sports events, scalpers could make a fortune today in San Francisco. Gay marriage cases from four western states - Idaho, Oregon, Nevada and Hawaii, are on the docket for judges of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to hear and later decide. Actually, probably only two of those cases will go to a full-court press, judicially - the cases from Idaho and Nevada.

The courtroom in the San Francisco federal courthouse is likely to be jammed - so much so that justices are urging people to watch arguments on the internet and on special screens set up in the courthouse rather than jousting for scarce seats.

Oregon elected officials have decided not push the issue, even though a gay marriage ban is enshrined in the state constitution. The only group seeking to intervene, the National Organization for Marriage, has been blocked by the appeals court. And even though Hawaii's gay marriage fight is still on the judicial calendar, the issue is likely to be ruled moot, since the state legalized same-sex marriages last December.

Idaho seems to be the only state determined to fight to the finish on the issue. Governor Butch Otter even asked the full court - not just a three-judge panel - to hear the case, but he was turned down.

In Washington State

Washington's Attorney General, Bob Ferguson, hopes to cut through the cumbersome judicial procedures in gay marriage cases and put the issue squarely before the nation's highest court.
He and 14 other state attorneys general want a "once-and-for-all" ruling on three cases from other federal appeals court circuits.

As Ferguson put it, "It is time for the Supreme Court to weigh in on this critical civil rights issue and rule once and for all that all state bans on gay marriage are unconstitutional." Ferguson is no stranger to intervention in gay marriage cases. Last year he joined 15 of his peers in filing "friend of the court" briefs to argue against same-sex bans in Nevada and Hawaii.

If the high court agrees to take up the issue, it'll announce its decision sometime this fall.

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