No doubt advocates and opponents of same-sex marriage will both be disappointed and frustrated…some will likely be outraged. The Supreme Court has passed up its first opportunity to re-enter the national debate on the contentious issue, putting off a decision on whether to hear any new cases on constitutional grounds.
USA Today reports that the justices have delayed taking any action on petitions from five states where a same-sex-marriage ban is in dispute:
The justices are considering state bans on same-sex marriage in Utah, Oklahoma, Virginia, Indiana and Wisconsin that have been overturned in lower courts. They must decide whether to hear any of those cases or let the latest court rulings stand, which would legalize gay marriage in 11 additional states.
If the court ultimately agrees to hear one or more cases, oral arguments would be held early in 2015 and a ruling rendered before the court adjourns in June. It is unlikely that the justices will decide before their next conference on Oct. 10.
Nationallawjournal.com helps to put the high court’s non-action into perspective:
The justices on Thursday issued their first orders list before the official start of the new term on Oct. 6. That list, which contained cases that they plan to decide, followed their private conference on Monday in which they culled through several thousand petitions filed during the summer.
Although conventional wisdom says the court will take up the same-sex marriage question this term, some court scholars and litigators had suggested the court would not act on the petitions during its first conference.
As of now, nineteen states and the District of Columbia permit same-sex marriage, and the high court ruled last year that the federal government cannot deny benefits to such couples. It sidestepped the remaining state laws by taking no position on the merits of California’s ban, which had been struck down by lower federal courts.
Again, from the usatoday.com report on the Supreme Court’s ongoing involvement in one of the biggest social, cultural, political, legal and religious issues of our time:
Since those decisions were handed down, six additional states have legalized gay marriage, and federal and state judges in 14 more states have overturned marriage bans. All those rulings have been put on hold during the appeals process, leaving 31 bans in place.
According to an article in The Washington Post, one Justice hinted that the high court will, in fact, soon grapple once again with the issue:
At an appearance in Colorado Wednesday, Justice Antonin Scalia was asked when the court would take up the same-sex marriage issue. According to the Associated Press, Scalia quipped, “I know when, but I’m not going to tell you.” When the crowd of about 1,500 laughed, Scalia added, “Soon! Soon!”
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