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article imageSupreme Court denies cert in same-sex marriage cases

By Karla Lant     Oct 6, 2014 in Politics
Today the U.S. Supreme Court denied cert in same-sex marriage cases, refusing a final ruling on the issue, but allowing same-sex couples to get married in 5 more states with more to join soon. Same-sex marriage will now be legal in the majority of states.
Today on this first day of its new term, the U.S. Supreme Court denied cert in same-sex marriage cases. This move will refuse a final ruling on the issue, but will allow same-sex couples to get married in five more states. Additional states are very likely to to join them soon now that the court has made its current position known.
SCOTUS rejected appeals in same-sex marriage cases from five states that had prohibited same-sex marriage: Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia, and Wisconsin. It did so without comment, leaving the rulings of lower courts striking down prohibitions intact.
This means that there will be 24 states that allow same-sex marriage, and that the six states waiting in the wings with regional federal appeals court rulings striking down similar bans will soon join them. This is because every state within the circuit courts that rendered these decisions is covered by these denials of cert. Virginia is in the 4th Circuit, Oklahoma and Utah are in the 10th Circuit, and Indiana and Wisconsin are in the 7th Circuit. These circuits together include 14 states total.
Three of the impacted states—Illinois, Maryland, and New Mexico—already allow same-sex marriage. So today's denial brings marriage equality to eleven additional states: Colorado, Indiana, Kansas, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. Therefore, a total of 30 states plus the District of Columbia will allow same-sex couples to marry. That places the remaining 20 states that prohibit same-sex marriage squarely into the minority in the United States.
Many advocates for same-sex marriage were thrilled by this step despite the lack of a favorable ruling. Chad Griffin, president of the gay rights group Human Rights Campaign, commented:
“Any time same-sex couples are extended marriage equality is something to celebrate, and today is a joyous day for thousands of couples across America who will immediately feel the impact of today's Supreme Court action.”
However, because the denial of cert on the contentious issue also denies a national ruling on the matter, some litigation may continue in states with prohibitions. Evan Wolfson, head of Freedom to Marry, said that although this action certainly gives a boost to same-sex marriage in many parts of the country, advocates still want the high court to intervene.
“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,” Wolfson said. “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.”
Opponents to same-sex marriage also hope that SCOTUS will take on the issue, still hoping for a decision that will be in their favor. “The people should decide this issue, not the courts,” said Byron Babione, a lawyer with the Alliance Defending Freedom, a right-wing activist group.
However, this denial of cert does signal that striking down same-sex marriage prohibitions is Constitutional.
Same-sex couples in affected states will likely seek out marriage licenses at once; the action means that any previous bans are void. Within hours of the action Virginia began issuing licenses to same-sex couples.
For the Supreme Court to grant certiorari, at least four members of the court must vote to hear it. Many legal experts believed that SCOTUS would in fact hear the issue this term. The court did not explain the denial of cert, but there are several possibilities. why it was not taking up the issue. A majority may think a decision on the issue is premature and want to see more lower court decisions first, although most legal experts on both sides seem to agree that it is time for a decision. More likely is the fact that this Supreme Court is troublingly polarized on this and many other issues; it seems possible that justices on both sides of the issue wanted to avoid setting a nationwide precedent now when the outcome is so uncertain.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest emphasized President Barack Obama's position that “there may ultimately be a role for the Supreme Court to play,” and that “it's wrong to prevent same-sex couples who are in loving, committed relationships and want to marry from doing so.”
It is worth noting that in all of the cases today that were not heard by the Supreme Court, appeals courts supported marriage equality. Should other appeals courts rule the opposite way and uphold a state law banning same-sex marriage it is inevitable that the Supreme Court will hear the case. When it does, if it rules against same-sex marriage, it will be undoing everything it just did today, which seems unlikely.
More about Samesex marriage, Samesex couples, Samesex relationships, samesex family rights, Gay marriage
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