Dec 10
3:35 PM

The Supreme Court Will Hear Gay Marriage Cases

The U.S. Supreme Court has spoken: on Friday, it announced that it will hear oral arguments in two cases dealing with same-sex marriage.

Hollingsworth v. Perry is the case involving California’s Prop. 8, the Proposition that banned gay marriage in the state.  There are two questions presented here: 1) whether the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection clause prohibits the state from denying marriage to same-sex couples; and 2) whether the petitioners have standing.  Although many expect the Court to decide the first question, it is entirely possible that the Court will opt to decide the case simply on the second question, thus avoiding the politics of the gay marriage debate.

In the second case, United States v. Windsor, there are three issues at hand: 1) whether Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) “violates the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection of the laws as applied to persons of the same sex who are legally married under the laws of their State”; 2) whether the Supreme Court has jurisdiction to decide the case in light of the Executive Branch’s agreement with the lower court that DOMA (Section 3) is unconstitutional; and 3) whether the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group of the U.S. House of Representatives has standing.  As in Hollingsworth, it is possible that the Court will attempt to avoid the gay marriage question specifically by deciding the case based on one of the other issues.

The Court will hear oral arguments in March 2013 and plans to issue its ruling in June 2013. [REG]

Dec 3
10:00 AM

Are Human Genes Patentable?

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court granted a writ of certiorari for Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, a case addressing the question of "whether human genes are patentable."  In August of this year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled that the genes in question were patentable, because the defendant's method of extracting the genes changed their molecular structure (but not their genetic codes).  Under Supreme Court precedent, "laws of nature, natural phenomena, and abstract ideas" are not patentable (Diamond v. Diehr, 450 U.S. 175, 185).  However, the "application" of a law of nature may be patentable – the patent proposed "must limit its reach to a particular, inventive application of the law" (Mayo Collaborative Services v. Prometheus Laboratories, Inc., 132 S. Ct. 1289 (2012)).

The patents at issue in this case involve genes associated with breast and ovarian cancers.  The plaintiff and its supporters argue that allowing patents on these genes restricts potentially life-saving research and ultimately harms women.  On the other side, supporters of the patents argue that denying patents may have negative effects on investments in technology.  For more information and to keep up-to-date on this and other Supreme Court developments, check out the links under U.S. S. Ct on the right side of this page. [REG]