WASHINGTON - The US Supreme Court on Monday again put off a decision on whether to take up the sensitive issue of same-sex marriage, taking no action on 10 petitions before it but agreeing to discuss them later.
The top US court has placed the issue on the agenda for its closed-door meeting on Friday, meaning it will have featured in discussions at three consecutive meetings.
It could announce on Friday or Monday whether it will take up any of the gay marriage petitions.
The court released a long list of cases that it will not hear, but made no mention of the petitions, suggesting the justices are having trouble deciding on the matter and need further time to debate in private.
Eight of the petitions involve challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a 1996 law that denies federal benefits to married same-sex couples.
The benefits enjoyed by heterosexual married couples but denied to gays include inheritance rights, tax breaks, filing of joint income tax returns, and health insurance coverage.
Two other petitions deal with an Arizona state law similar to DOMA and a challenge to a 2008 California voter initiative that limited marriage to a man and a woman.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has said that same-sex marriage probably would come before the court in the session that ends in mid-2013.
If the court does take up one or more of the petitions, it will probably hear oral arguments on the constitutionality of same-sex message in March and then hand down its ruling in June.
Thousands of homosexual couples have already been legally married or will be soon in nine of the 50 US states plus the District of Columbia.
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