In a win for same-sex marriage advocates across the country, the Supreme Court of the United States refused to review a number of appeals against decisions by various lower courts that had challenged state rules by supporting gay marriage. The surprising October 6th decision promotes the opportunity for men and women to legally marry a partner of their same gender in a number of states where such a union was previously banned.
Attorneys General in five different states had asked SCOTUS to step in and overrule decisions by appellate courts that had challenged gay marriage bans, but the Supreme Court chose to allow the lower court rulings to stand.
Specifically, the unexpected move by SCOTUS tacitly approved four gay marriages that were being challenged in three appellate courts. In doing so, the Supreme Court has contributed to same-sex marriage likely becoming legal in the 11 states where those courts have jurisdiction. Virginia, Utah, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, and Indiana have all had their gay marriage bans struck down.
There are six additional states under jurisdiction of the courts affected by Monday’s non-ruling: Colorado, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Wyoming. Although reactions in these states were varied, most have since begun revising their treatment of same-sex marriage.
For now, the support of gay marriage advocated by the Courts of Appeals of the 4th, 7th, and 10th Circuits stand as the predominant rulings and examples of the legal reasoning on the subject. However, it is possible that another appellate court may eventually choose to uphold a state’s gay marriage ban, in which case the Supreme Court may have to take a more active role in preventing those decisions.
Additionally, it will now be extremely difficult for anyone to challenge gay marriage in the other 19 states that had already legalized same-sex unions.