The Supreme Court on Monday rejected
appeals from five cases challenging gay marriage bans in Indiana,
Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin.
The decision not to hear the cases
means lower court rulings will stand and gay couples will be allowed
to marry in those states. The court's order also affects couples in
six other states. Colorado, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina,
West Virginia and Wyoming are bound by the appellate court rulings
the high court refused to hear.
The move increases the number of states
where gay couples can marry from 19 to 30, in addition to the
District of Columbia.
While the court did not comment on its
actions, CNN legal corresponded Jeffrey Toobin said he believes the
justices decided against review because appellate courts that have
ruled on the issue are in agreement.
“Apparently they feel like the issue
is developing at an appropriate way in the lower courts. At the
moment there is no conflict among the lower courts. All circuit
courts that have addressed this issue have found that there is a
constitutional right to same-sex marriage, so the justices don't feel
like they need to solve a dispute among the circuit courts at this
point,” Toobin said.
The Sixth Circuit, which is considering
bans in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee, and the Ninth
Circuit, which is considering bans in Nevada, Hawaii and Idaho, could
issue rulings at any time. A 3-judge panel from the Sixth Circuit
has signaled it might rule in favor of state bans.
Gay rights groups renewed calls for the
Supreme Court to take up the issue.
“[W]e 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,”
said Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry. “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.”
Chad Griffin, president of the Human
Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation's largest LGBT rights advocate,
echoed a similar sentiment: “[L]et 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.”