8th Circuit Court of Appeals defers same-sex marriage cases

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals deferred arguments and a decision Wednesday on same-sex marriage cases in four states until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the issue, allowing the appeals court to potentially rule on any matters not addressed by the nation’s highest court.

The appeals court said it’s holding off on “any further consideration” of the cases from South Dakota, Arkansas, Missouri and Nebraska for now. All four states are appealing federal judges’ decisions to overturn gay marriage bans. Oral arguments were scheduled to begin on May 12 in Omaha, Nebraska.

The ruling, which the court said was not prompted from either the plaintiffs or states involved, comes a day after the Supreme Court heard arguments on the issue of same-sex marriage in cases from four states. The court could decide by June whether gay couples can marry nationwide.

The eventual decision from the Supreme Court will determine how the 8th Circuit proceeds.

The final ruling could be broad and effectively make the cases before the 8th Circuit moot, but justices could also issue a narrow ruling or a decision based on procedural issues, allowing judges to rule on any questions raised in the 8th Circuit that aren’t addressed, said South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley.

“The 8th Circuit is saying, ‘We’re reserving the right once we see what the Supreme Court says, to make a determination of what, if anything, we have to resolve,'” he said.

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Several parties involved in the cases said they were dismayed with the court’s announcement.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said in a statement that the 8th Circuit ” has the authority to rule regardless of what is occurring before the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Josh Newville, a Minneapolis attorney who’s representing six same-sex couples from South Dakota, said he’s uncertain why the court waited to make the announcement until Wednesday, given that it knew oral arguments before the Supreme Court had been scheduled long ago.

“This process has been a painful one for my clients, and the Court’s action today adds to the roller-coaster they’ve been forced to endure,” he said in a statement.

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