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WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court on Tuesday invited a Massachusetts lawyer to come argue that the justices cannot rule on one of the gay marriage questions it had planned to decide next year.
The court asked lawyer Vicki C. Jackson of Cambridge to join the gay marriage arguments this spring, but she won't be arguing whether it's legal for governments to treat gay Americans differently in issues of marriage. Instead, at the court's invitation, Jackson will be arguing that it's improper for the Supreme Court to even consider making a ruling on a federal law that treats gay married couples differently from heterosexual married couples.
The high court will be hearing two gay marriage arguments: first, whether California's constitutional amendment that forbids same-sex is constitutional. The second question is the one Jackson will argue that justices should stay out of: the constitutionality of a federal law that denies to gay couple who can marry legally the right to obtain federal benefits that are available to heterosexual married couples.
Gay marriage is legal, or will be soon, in nine states _ Maine, Maryland, Washington state, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont _ and the nation's capital, the District of Columbia.
But a provision of the Defense of Marriage Act, known by its acronym DOMA, defines marriage as between a man and a woman for the purpose of deciding who can receive a range of federal health and pension benefits, as well as favorable tax treatment.
So far, four federal district courts and two appeals courts struck down the provision. Last year, the Obama administration abandoned its defense of the law, but continues to enforce it. House Republicans are now defending DOMA in the courts.
Jackson was asked by the court to argue "that the Executive Branch's agreement with the court below that DOMA is unconstitutional deprives this court of jurisdiction to decide this case." She will also argue that House Republicans cannot substitute themselves for the Justice Department and therefore they lack "standing in this case."
Other political news:
- Some Chicago leaders are urging state officials to appeal a decision throwing out Illinois' ban on concealed weapons. The battle comes as parts of the city in the grip of gang warfare, according to the Associated Press.
- Eight Senators, including Mike Lee, R-Utah, have begun to meet to discuss immigration reform. Immigration is supposed to be a top legislative priority in 2013, Politico reports.
- A U.S. Marine who died in Iraq will not have his Navy Cross upgraded to a Medal of Honor because it was determined he was unconscious when his body smothered a grenade in Iraq in 2004, saving the lives of other Marines, according to the Associated Press.
- Americans want members of Congress to compromise on fiscal cliff talks, polling shows. Congress expects talks to stretch well into the holidays, according to the Associated Press.
Contributing: Stephanie Grimes