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BREAKING! SCOTUS to review taking marriage cases from Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee

WASHINGTON DC -- The U.S. Supreme Court indicated today that it would consider hearing the same-sex marriage cases from Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee during its private conference set for Friday, Jan. 16.

Most court observers believe that the justices will take up the marriage issue this term, which concludes at the end of June.

The court's decision on whether to take up any marriage cases could be announced later on Friday, but more likely first thing on Monday morning.

Earlier today, the high court released its orders and none of the marriage cases were on the docket.

However, the court denied a request for it to take up an early review of the Louisiana gay marriage case, Robincheaux v. George, which was just heard Friday at the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals along with cases from Texas and Mississippi. Most legal experts believe the conservative Fifth Circuit will vote 2-1 in favor of marriage equality after listening to the oral arguments.

The request, made by marriage-equality supporters, was a long-shot anyway since the high court usually allows cases to unfold at lower courts before getting involved.

To date, the high court majority has allowed gay marriage to slowly spread across the United States, permitting lower court rulings in favor of marriage equality to stand. To date, 36 states and the District of Columbia have marriage equality -- comprising more than 70% of the U.S. population.

After dozen and dozens of legal victories at district and appellate courts, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, Ohio last year threw the monkey wrench by upholding state bans in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee. That essentially is forcing the hand of the high court to take up the marriage issue to prevent a patchwork of states where some gay and lesbian couples will face marriage discrimination.

The Supreme Court sidestepped granting marriage equality nationwide in its Windsor ruling last June, but the flood of marriage victories over the past six months seems to provide perfect timing for the justices to return to the issue.