Insightful Article as we approach the Supreme Court ruling...

Article by Liz Goodwin / Yahoo's The Ticket

As the Supreme Court’s unpredictable swing vote, Justice Anthony Kennedy often finds himself the subject of scrutiny before big, controversial Supreme Court cases. But next week, when he hears arguments in two cases with the potential to transform the way gays and lesbians are treated in the country, Kennedy watchers have two landmark opinions written by the justice to mine for clues as to how he will rule.

Starting Tuesday, judges will hear oral arguments over whether California’s voter-approved ban on gay marriage, Proposition 8, violates the constitutional rights of gay people in the state; and over whether the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which states that only marriages between people of the opposite sex are federally valid, is legal.

The former, called Perry v. Hollingsworth, could be especially significant as the justices, in theory, could either declare all state gay marriage bans unconstitutional—or say that gay couples have no constitutional claim to marriage at all.

Kennedy, a 76-year-old Sacramento native and Ronald Reagan appointee, most often votes with his four conservative colleagues. But the devout Catholic has broken with that pattern to side with the more liberal wing of the court in some key cases, such as when he affirmed Roe v. Wade’s holding that women have a right to abortions in 1992, and when he ruled in 2005 that states may not sentence criminals to death if they committed their crimes as juveniles.