Major cases still awaiting decisions

Monday’s ruling on affirmative action at the University of Texas and decisions in four other cases leaves six the court is expected to rule on before its current term ends this week. Among them are potential blockbuster cases on same-sex marriage, marriage equality and voting rights.

Here’s a look at those three cases, which could be decided as early as today:

Gay marriage. The appeal in Hollingsworth vs. Perry challenges a federal court ruling that a voter-approved California ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. The case was argued with the goal of giving the court grounds to issue precedent-setting opinion on the legality of gay marriage nationwide. But the court could also choose to rule that the group challenging the lower-court decision — the organizers of the ballot initiative rather than the state of California, which chose not to appeal — lacks standing. The result would be to affirm that same-sex marriage is legal in California, but leave it up to other states to make their own decisions.

Marriage equality. In U.S. vs. Windsor, lawyers hired by congressional Republicans after the Obama administration refused to appeal are asking the court to reject a federal court judgment against the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which bars marriage rights for gay couples. The case involves a New York woman who sued after her same-sex spouse died and she was denied a marriage exemption on federal estate taxes.

Voting rights. The Alabama case, Shelby County vs. Holder, challenges Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires all or parts of states with a history of discriminatory practices — mostly in the South and West — to submit any change in their voting systems to the Justice Department for approval before enacting them. A ruling in favor of the plaintiffs could spell the end of such federal oversight in several states that have been moving to make voter eligibility more stringent.