On Monday October 6th 2014, the Supreme Court made a significant decision without actually making a decision. The Supreme Court rejected appeals from five states where gay marriage had been prohibited and the lower courts had ruled the bans as unconstitutional. By denying the appeals, it upheld the unconstitutional rulings of marriage bans in these states. “The Five,” as they are called, Virginia, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, and Indiana, were immediately granted marriage equality Monday morning.
Additionally, this “decision” will impact six other states, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, and West Virginia. As members of the 4th, 7th, and 10th Circuits courts of appeals, the citizens of these states might also be granted marriage equality in the coming weeks.
Although the Supreme Court did not make a comment as to their reasoning behind rejecting these appeals, the results are still a momentous achievement for the gay rights movement. It will bring marriage equality to 24 states, hopefully 30 in the coming weeks, which is over half of the United States. Virginia began issuing same-sex marriage licenses within hours of the Court’s rejection of the appeals while couples in the remaining four states rushed to the court houses to receive their marriage licenses as well.
This move by the Supreme Court prompts many thoughts and questions concerning the marriage equality movement. It must be made clear that the Supreme Court decision to deny these appeals did not make same-sex marriage legal in the United States nor does it necessarily mean that it will hold precedence or be influential to the remaining states with same-sex marriage bans. However, the Supreme Court’s decision today may indicate a few possibilities: That the majority of the justices agreed with the lower court’s rulings who found the banning of same-sex marriage unconstitutional; or it may indicate that there was not a clear majority of justices that would vote in favor of marriage equality if the Supreme Court had decided to hear an appeal.
Either way the results are the same. Nationwide marriage equality is still a possibility.
Although many are thankful for the Supreme Court’s decision today, some gay rights supporters and conservatives were frustrated with the Supreme Court’s lack of action today. Ed Whelan, a conservative legal commentator, wrote that “the court’s denial of review in all the pending cases strikes me as grossly irresponsible, as a huge abdication of duty on the part of at least six justices.” Similarly, Nan Aron, the Alliance for Justice President, said that “by declining to take these cases, the court passed up an opportunity to finish the job” that they began in 2013 with the decision in United States vs. Windsor that overturned the part of DOMA that defined marriage as solely between a man and woman.
Despite some disappointment on both sides and the lack of information on the reasoning behind the Supreme Court’s active inaction, it does seems that yesterday the United States government has taken another step toward redressing a wrong which is a wrong in itself and we can be more hopeful that marriage equality is on the fast track toward becoming a nationwide liberty for all same-sex couples of the present and the future.
Photo Credit: David Gohering