WASHINGTON — In a surprise development, the U.S. Supreme Court today announced it would not accept for review any of the seven appeals on same-sex marriage bans from five states. The action means that the stays placed on lower court decisions in all five states –decisions that struck down bans on marriage for same-sex couples— are immediately lifted, making way for lower courts to issue orders requiring the states to stop enforcing their bans and begin issuing marriage licenses.
The action also means that six other states in the same federal circuits as the five states which had appeals before the high court will have to abide by the federal appeals court rulings in those circuits or take the unusual tact of asking their circuits for full bench review of their cases. A three-judge panel in all three circuits –the Fourth, Seventh, and Tenth—struck down the bans on marriage for same-sex couples.
That means that very soon, same-sex couples will likely be able to marry in 30 states plus the District of Columbia, tipping the balance in favor of marriage equality, from the previous 19 states and D.C.
The Salt Lake Tribune reported that the Tenth Circuit issued an order just minutes after the Supreme Court’s announcement was made public, lifting the stay in that state and alerting clerks in Utah that they should immediately abide by its ruling that the ban is unconstitutional.
Colorado Attorney General John Suthers implied the Supreme Court announcement denying review of the cases was tantamount to a ruling.
“We have consistently maintained that we will abide by the Supreme Court’s determination on the constitutionality of marriage laws,” said Suthers in a press release. “By choosing not to take up the matter, the court has left the 10th Circuit ruling in place.” He said Colorado clerks “must begin issuing marriage licenses to all same-sex couples” soon after the Tenth Circuit issued its order.
In Wisconsin, Republican Governor Scott Walker told reporters on his re-election campaign trail that the issue is “resolved” and there would be no further attempts to defend the state ban; Dane County announced it would issue licenses to same-sex couples immediately.
The Indiana attorney general posted a statement indicating the state would begin issuing license “soon.”
The Fourth Circuit issued its order mandating that states stop enforcing the bans at 1 p.m. EDT Monday. Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, who has opposed that state’s ban, issued a press release saying that same-sex couples could begin obtaining marriage licenses as soon as that order is issued.