BY MARK SHERMAN, ASSOCIATED PRESS
WASHINGTON -- Three U.S. states and three countries have approved same-sex unions just in the two months since the Supreme Court heard arguments over gay marriage, raising questions about how the developments might affect the justices' consideration of the issue.
In particular, close observers on both sides of the gay marriage divide are wondering whether Justice Anthony Kennedy's view could be decisive since he often has been the swing vote on the high court.
It is always possible that Justice Kennedy is reading the newspapers and is impressed with the progress," said Michael Klarman, a Harvard University law professor and author of a recent book on the gay marriage fight.
In earlier cases on gay rights and the death penalty, Kennedy has cited the importance of changing practices, both nationally and around the world.
The court is expected to rule by late June in two cases involving same-sex marriage. One is a challenge to California's voter-approved Proposition 8 that defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman. The other seeks to strike down a portion of the federal Defense of Marriage Act that denies to legally married same-sex couples a range of benefits that generally are available to married heterosexuals.