Supreme Court to Weigh In on Gay Marriage, Lethal Injections as Term Winds to Close

The Supreme Court is preparing to hand down perhaps its most anticipated decision all year as its term winds to a close: the fate of the right of same-sex couples to marry.

The justices are expected to issue decisions in their remaining five cases on Friday and possibly Monday, after they gave the Obama administration big legal victories Thursday.

A pair of rulings Thursday upheld Obamacare subsidies nationwide, for patients who bought health care on both federal and state-run exchnges, as well as the use of a potent tool to fight housing discrimination.

The justices will take the bench again Friday to hand down more opinions. They should finish their work by early next week. In rare instances, the court will put off decisions and order a case to be argued again in the next term.

A look at the cases that remain:

—Gay marriage: Same-sex couples want the court to declare that gay and lesbian couples can marry anywhere in the United States. Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee are asking the court to uphold bans on same-sex marriage and allow the political process, not the courts, to handle major societal changes. Same-sex couples can marry in 36 states.

—Lethal injection: Death-row inmates in Oklahoma are objecting to the use of the sedative midazolam in lethal-injection executions after the drug was implicated in several botched executions. Their argument is that the drug does not reliably induce a coma-like sleep that would prevent them from experiencing the searing pain of the paralytic and heart-stopping drugs that follow sedation.

—Independent redistricting commissions: Roughly a dozen states have adopted independent commissions to reduce partisan politics in drawing congressional districts. The case from Arizona involves a challenge from Republican state lawmakers who complain that they can't be completely cut out of the process without violating the Constitution.

—Mercury emissions: Industry groups and Republican-led states assert that environmental regulators overstepped their bounds by coming up with expensive limits on the emissions of mercury and other toxic pollutants from power plants without taking account of the cost of regulation at the start of the process. The first-ever limits on mercury emissions, more than a decade in the making, began to take effect in April.

—Repeat offenders: The court is considering whether a catchall provision of the Armed Career Criminal Act, which gives longer prison terms to people with at least three prior violent felony convictions, is so vague that it sweeps in relatively minor crimes.

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