Supreme Court Decides to Sit Out the Marriage Battle – At least for now!

In a move that some commentators had been increasingly predicted, the United States Supreme Court decided to not take any of the appeals from the same-sex marriage rulings. Federal appellate courts in a multiplicity of regions had upheld the broad sweep of trial court decisions overturning the marriage bans, and the Supreme Court has the option of hearing, or not hearing, further appeals. By declining to hear further appeals of these decisions, the appellate court decisions become final. That means, at a minimum, that lesbian and gay couples in Virginia, Indiana, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Utah, North and South Carolina, West Virginia, Colorado, Kansas and Wyoming will soon be allowed to marry.

There are some legal issues that remain uncertain at this point. One question is how soon will couples be allowed to marry in these states? It may take a few days, or weeks, for the consequences of the decision to get transmitted to the proper authorities – so don’t schedule your wedding quite yet. The bigger unknown is what will happen in states that are included in the appellate court region in which there were positive decisions, but where there wasn’t a decision for that particular state. Some state authorities might just decide that it’s not worth fighting for another ruling, or some federal trial courts might just hurry up and issue decisions in those states – which the state authorities would simply not appeal. Until there is a Supreme Court decision it is always possible that a future court might uphold a ban, and that decision could be upheld on appeal – but this is very unlikely at this point.

Moreover, even if such an unlikely story unfolds, the resulting decision could be taken up by the Supreme Court – but it’s likely that they would not uphold a ban at that point. By then there would have been thousands of marriages in dozens of states, and it’s unlikely that the Supreme Court would go against the tide of history and invalidate so many marriages retroactively.

Most likely, today will be known as the day that same-sex marriage effectively became the law of the land in this country. And that’s a very good thing!

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