[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] on Monday denied seven pending appeals [order list, PDF], rejecting calls for a nationwide ruling on same-sex marriage. The rebuff puts into effect three federal appeals decisions, legalizing same-sex marriage in Utah, Oklahoma, Virginia, Wisconsin and Indiana. Other states including Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas, West Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina will likely follow because they are under the same jurisdiction of the appellate courts. These additions raise the number of same-sex marriage states to 30. However, the rejection leaves legal uncertainty elsewhere, meaning same-sex couples must wait for additional court rulings. Advocates on both sides have urged the Supreme Court to resolve this uncertainty, and the rejection to hear these cases was unexpected in the rapidly changing landscape of same-sex marriage throughout the nation this past decade. The Supreme Court hinted towards support for gay marriage when it struck down [JURIST report] the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) [text; JURIST news archives] last year. However, the Supreme Court only accepts a case for review if at least four of the nine justices vote to hear it.
The debate over the legalization of same-sex marriage [JURIST backgrounder] is one of the most contentious issues [JURIST op-ed] nationwide since the Supreme Court rulings last year. Last June the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in United States v. Windsor [SCOTUSblog backgrounder] that Section 3 of DOMA was unconstitutional, meaning that couples in lawfully recognized same-sex marriages could be entitled to certain federal benefits. The same day the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in Hollingsworth v. Perry [SCOTUSblog backgrounder] that petitioners lacked standing to appeal the district court’s order striking down Proposition 8 [text, PDF; JURIST news archives], California’s same-sex marriage ban. The ruling did not however address the underlying substantive merits of Proposition 8. Nationwide uncertainty has left states to continue challenging same-sex marriage. Last month the Fifteenth Judicial District Court of Louisiana [official website] issued a ruling Monday holding the state’s ban on the recognition of same-sex marriages performed outside of the state unconstitutional. The ruling came just days after the US District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana [official website] became the first federal court to uphold a state’s ban on same-sex marriage [JURIST report] since the Supreme Court’s verdict in United States v. Windsor.