U.S. Supreme Court decision on gay marriage could affect SC, Ga. - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Supreme Court decision on gay marriage could affect Ga. and SC

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SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) -

The California border may be more than 2,000 miles away from the westernmost spot where WTOC viewers live, but the U.S. Supreme Court's decision on that state's same-sex marriage ban could affect the Lowcountry and Coastal Empire.

The Supreme Court has five options in the legal challenge of Proposition 8, the same-sex marriage ban California voters approved in 2008. They could declare that same-sex marriage is constitutionally protected nationwide, or they could decide it isn't protected. They could find that there's no difference between a marriage and a civil union. They could decide that gay marriage is protected in California. Or they could dismiss the case on procedural grounds.

In 80 minutes of arguments Tuesday, lawyers against California's gay marriage ban likened the case to Loving versus the State of Virginia, the 1967 Supreme Court case that struck down state bans on interracial marriage.

Justices hinted they may dismiss the case on procedural grounds – that this may not be a question they're ready to tackle.

Justice Anthony Kennedy called the decision "uncharted waters."

Justice Sonia Sotomayor asked if there's "any way to decide this case in a principled manner that is limited to California only?"

The justices' decision is expected this summer. If they do dismiss the case on procedural grounds, the California Supreme Court's decision would stand. That court overturned Proposition 8, so same-sex marriages once again would be legal.

In Georgia, same-sex marriage is banned by a state constitutional amendment. In South Carolina, it's banned by state statute. Currently, 39 states have bans against gay marriage, and it's legal in 9 states and the District of Columbia. New Mexico and Rhode Island have no ban but haven't legalized same-sex marriage either. Right now, Rhode Island's state senate is considering a bill to allow it. That bill already has passed Rhode Island's state house.

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