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Supreme Court Declines to Review Appeals, Gay Marriage to be Legal in 30 States

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to take up same-sex marriage appeals from five states, paving the way for gay and lesbian couples to tie the knot

(Photo: Adam Fagan/flickr/cc)

Update 2:30 pm EST:

Some counties have already begun issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in the wake of Monday's U.S. Supreme Court decision not to review pending marriage equality cases. 

By "denying cert" in five same-sex marriage cases from Indiana, Wisconsin, Utah, Virginia, and Oklahoma, the Court let stand the decisions of lower appeals courts—all of which had declared state laws banning same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional. In some cases, stay orders that had blocked implementation of gay marriage laws were immediately lifted. 

"With not a single dependable hint of its own constitutional view of same-sex marriage, the Supreme Court in one fell swoop on Monday cleared the way for gays and lesbians to wed in a batch of new states—starting first in five more states, and probably adding six more in the coming weeks," reporter Lyle Denniston wrote at SCOTUSblog. "In seven one-line orders, released without explanation and with no report on how any Justice voted, the Court surprisingly refused to review any same-sex marriage case now before it and, in the process, prepared to lift a series of orders that had delayed such marriages while the issue remained in the Court.   Almost no one had expected that to happen."

He continued:

It may take a few weeks for the Court’s action to take effect in real-world terms, in the geographic areas where federal appeals courts have struck down bans in five states — the decisions that the Justices have now left intact.  Because those appeals court rulings are binding on all federal courts in their regions, those decisions almost certainly dictate the outcome in six more states.

While many observers are championing the fact that gay marriage will soon be legal for the majority of the U.S. population, including several conservative states, others expressed frustration that the matter remains unresolved on the national level. 

In a separate analysis at SCOTUSblog, Columbia Law School professor Suzanne Goldberg writes:

[H]owever rational, an explanation for the Court’s cert. denial does not address the depressing result for many same-sex couples who had hoped for an end to the harms they suffer by being treated as legal strangers in their home states. And, of course, these harms are not limited to the couples themselves. In Windsor, Justice Kennedy famously invoked the harms—both financial and dignitary—to children whose parents cannot marry or have their marriages recognized.

In addition, governments and businesses now know that their constituents and employees will continue to suffer under the nation’s patchwork approach to marriage rights for the foreseeable future.


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James Esseks, director of the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project, called Monday's non-decision "a watershed moment for the entire country."

But the fight for full equality continues, he said. "We are one big step closer to the day when all same-sex couples will have the freedom to marry regardless of where they live. The time has come and the country is ready."


The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to take up same-sex marriage appeals from five states, a decision that should pave the way for legal gay marriage in a majority of states.

The Court's order immediately ends delays on marriage in Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia, and Wisconsin. In addition, couples in six other states—Colorado, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia and Wyoming—should be able to get married soon because they are also under the jurisdiction of appeals courts that struck down the bans.

According to the New York Times, "The move was a major surprise and suggests that the justices are not going to intercede in the wave of decisions in favor of same-sex marriage at least until a federal appeals court upholds a state ban."

"Today’s decision by the Supreme Court leaves in force five favorable marriage rulings reached in three federal appellate courts, ensuring the freedom to marry for millions more Americans around the country," said Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry. "The Court’s letting stand these victories means that gay couples will soon share in the freedom to marry in 30 states, representing 60 percent of the American people."

However, there is more to be done, Wolfson continued:

But we are one country, with one Constitution, and the Court’s delay in affirming the freedom to marry nationwide prolongs the patchwork of state-to-state discrimination and the harms and indignity that the denial of marriage still inflicts on too many couples in too many places. As waves of freedom to marry litigation continue to surge, we will continue to press the urgency and make the case that America—all of America—is ready for the freedom to marry, and the Supreme Court should finish the job.

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