Amy Howe summarizes the incredible news:
[T]he Court denied review of all seven of the petitions arising from challenges to state bans on same-sex marriage. This means that the lower-court decisions striking down bans in Indiana, Wisconsin, Utah, Oklahoma, and Virginia should go into effect shortly, clearing the way for same-sex marriages in those states and any other state with similar bans in those circuits.
The Supreme Court had issued the first round of orders from the September 29 Conference last Thursday, adding eleven new cases to its docket for the new Term. Many people had anticipated that one or more of the same-sex marriage petitions might be on that list, but the Court did not act on any of them at the time. Last month Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had suggested that the Court might not step into the controversy at this point, because there was no disagreement among the lower courts on that issue. Today her prediction proved true[.]
Geidner explains what this means going forward:
The decision not to take on the appeal in any of the pending certiorari petitions brings marriage equality to Indiana, Oklahoma, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Utah — meaning 24 states in the country have legal marriage equality.
It also makes the appeals court decisions striking down the marriage bans in those states the law of the land in the 4th Circuit, 7th Circuit, and 10th Circuit courts of appeals — a result that makes marriage equality likely to come in short order in all states within those circuits. This is so because the controlling precedent in those circuits now is that bans on same-sex couples’ marriages are unconstitutional.
Among the other states in the 4th Circuit without marriage equality currently that would be impacted are North Carolina, South Carolina, and West Virginia. Among the other states in the 10th Circuit without marriage equality currently that would be impacted are Colorado, Kansas, and Wyoming. That, once resolved, would bring the total number of states with marriage equality to 30.
Ari Ezra Waldman takes a minute to recognize “the magnitude of this win”:
The Fourth Circuit includes Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. The Seventh Circuit includes Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin. The Tenth Circuit covers Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah. Those jurisdictions cover nearly 74 million people.
Ian Millhiser adds an important detail:
One thing that should be noted is that there are still marriage equality cases pending before conservative circuits that could rule against equality. Nevertheless, the fact that marriages are likely to begin very shortly in the states currently subject to court orders will make it very difficult for the Supreme Court to reverse course — and retroactively invalidate those marriages — in a subsequent opinion.
Mark Joseph Stern considers another possibility:
If no circuit court ever rules against gay marriage, the gay marriage question will be effectively settled, and the Supreme Court will never have to wade in again. It may be that the justices are hoping the lower courts rule uniformly on the issue—thereby making United States v. Windsor stand for a fundamental constitutional right for gay couples to marry. The tea leaves, at this point, remain hazy. But the court’s startling decision today suggests that no option is off the table.
More to come soon.
(Image: The WaPo’s updated marriage equality map)