Justices on Tuesday heard oral arguments in the first of two cases related to gay marriage, and Justice Anthony M. Kennedy hinted that the court should strike down California's ban on gay marriage without ruling broadly on the issue.

“I just wonder if this case was properly granted,” said Kennedy, considered a swing vote.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor went further, expressing support in letting states decide the issue for themselves. “Why is taking a case now the answer?” she asked.

Lawyers Ted Olson and David Boies represent two gay couples who wish to marry in California but are unable because of Proposition 8, the 2008 constitutional amendment which put an end to the weddings of gay and lesbian couples taking place in the state after the California Supreme Court legalized such unions. More than 18,000 couples married before voters approved Proposition 8.

The ban “walls off gays and lesbians from marriage, the most important relationship in life,” Olson told the justices.

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. appeared wary of moving too fast on the issue: “You want us to step in and assess the effects of this institution, which is newer than cellphones and/or the Internet?”

Charles Cooper, representing supporters of the ban, was asked how allowing gay couples to marry harmed the marriages of heterosexual couples.

“[T]he state's interest and society's interest in what we have framed as 'responsible procreation' is vital,” Cooper answered.

Influential court watcher SCOTUSblog tweeted: “Arguments done. #scotus won't uphold or strike down #prop8 bc Kennedy thinks it is too soon to rule on #ssm. #prop8 will stay invalidated.”