Supreme Court conference today. Gay marriage news ahead.

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Path of Prop 8. – IMAGE: AFER

The U.S. Supreme Court, in a conference on Sept. 24 (today), is expected to decide whether to hear arguments in the landmark battle over marriage equality in California, as well as challenges to a federal anti-gay marriage law.

The California battle is over Proposition 8, the constitutional amendment passed by a majority of voters in the state’s November 2008 election. The amendment defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman and bars same-sex marriage.

Two courts – a federal district court and a federal appeals court – have ruled Prop 8 is unconstitutional.

Proponents of the amendment, which state officials refused to defend in court, have now asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case.

The High Court’s term begins on the first Monday in October – a tradition – and runs until late June – another tradition. Some 8,000 cases may be carried to the Supreme Court each term but the Court will only hear oral arguments in 70 to 80 cases.

The Justices decide which cases to hear in private conferences that take place each week during the term – the first of those sessions is Sept. 24 (today).

At least four Justices must agree for a case to advance to oral arguments.

Given the procedure, American Foundation for Equal Rights, the group challenging Prop 8, offered several scenarios for what might happen:

Scenario 1: The Justices could vote to hear the Proposition 8 case, with an announcement of that decision coming as early as Sept. 25.

If the High Court takes the case, oral arguments likely will be scheduled in early 2013 and a decision released in June or July 2013.

Scenario 2: The Justices could decide not to hear the Proposition 8 case. If that is the Court’s decision, an announcement could be issued as early as Oct. 1 that the appeals court finding that the amendment is unconstitutional stands. After that, same-sex couples could again marry in California.

Scenario 3: The Justices might delay a decision on whether to take Prop 8, possibly to await the filing of other marriage related cases on track for the High Court.