By Julissa Catalan
Photo by Shutterstock
The U.S. Supreme Court has will not hear same-gender marriage appeals from five statesIndiana, Oklahoma, Virginia, Wisconsin and Utahallowing members of the LGBT community to marry in those states, where same-gender marriage previously was banned.
Another six statesColorado, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia and Wyomingare under the same federal-appeals-court jurisdiction as those five, meaning the SCOTUS decision is likely to bring the number of states where same-gender marriage is legal or faces few legal roadblocks from 19 to 30, plus the District of Colombia.
The cases before the Supreme Court included proceedings from three federal appeals courts:
a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit ruled 2-1 in June and July that same-gender couples in Utah and Oklahoma have “the same fundamental right” to marry as heterosexuals;
a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit ruled 2-1 in July that gays and lesbians have a constitutional right to marry that is paramount to state marriage laws;
a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit declared unanimously last month that same-gender marriage bans in Indiana and Wisconsin threaten “the welfare of American children.”
This decision comes as a surprise to some legal experts, as the Supreme Court was expected to rule on whether same-gender marriage bans are unconstitutional.
The Supreme Court justices did not release any explanation for the decision not to hear the appeals.
While many are calling the Supreme Court ruling a reflection of public opinion, state officials against same-gender marriage defend their respective bans by arguing that the Constitution does not dictate how each state should define marriage and that there has never been a legal tradition that supports same-gender marriage.
“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,” said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin. “But let me be clear, the complex and discriminatory patchwork of marriage laws that was prolonged today by the Supreme Court is unsustainable. The only acceptable solution is nationwide marriage equality and we recommit to ourselves to securing that ultimate victory as soon as possible.”
Appeals courts in Cincinnati and San Francisco are currently considering cases that could bring the number of states even higher, provided that Supreme Court rulings continue on this path.
Judges in the Cincinnati-based 6th Circuit will make rulings for Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee, while San Francisco’s 9th Circuit judges will consider Idaho’s and Nevada’s restrictions on same-gender marriage. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals also holds jurisdiction over California, Alaska, Arizona, Hawaii, Montana, Oregon and Washington, as well as U.S. territories in Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands.