The US Supreme Court will hear arguments on March 26 and 27 on the sensitive topic of gay marriage, one of the thorniest social disputes in modern America.
Same-sex marriage is currently barred by a federal law, yet legal in nine states and the capital, Washington.
The court’s announcement last month that it would take up the issue received cheers from opponents and advocates of the practice alike, who said a ruling by the justices could help settle the topic.
In announcing its schedule Monday, the court said it would take up the question of California’s ban on same-sex unions first, on March 26, and then the next day hear challenges to a federal law denying benefits to same-sex couples.
The court is expected to hand down its ruling in June.
The country’s highest court set aside an hour for each case, but observers believe that the hearings could well last much longer, because President Barack Obama’s administration as well as a group of elected Republicans have each been called to give their opinions.
On March 26, the Supreme Court will consider whether the 14th amendment to the US Constitution, which requires states to provide equal protection under the law to all people, would bar California from defining marriage in its own constitution as “between one man and one woman.”