This morning, there was a subtle, but very influential set of rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court today which will have the practical effect of legalizing same sex marriage in five states and opening a path for legalization to a total of eleven more states. Today, on its first day in session for the season, the High Court declined various petitions for certiorari from several states seeking the Supreme Court’s review of appellate court decisions striking down laws banning same sex marriage. The effect of the denial of the petitions will be that the prior decisions in the cases in which the ban on same sex marriage was stricken down will remain the status quo, thereby eventually legalizing same sex marriage in those states. They are the states within the federal appellate circuits of the Fourth, Seventh and Tenth circuits which have jurisdiction over Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Maryland, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
Previously, each of the appellate courts from which certiorari was sought entered orders staying further action by Utah, Oklahoma, Virginia, Wisconsin and Indiana toward permitting gay marriage until the Supreme Court had the opportunity to weigh in on the overall question. Now that the High Court declined to weigh in, it is believed that the stays will be eventually lifted, thereby legalizing same sex marriage in all of these five. Officials in Virginia began issuing same-sex marriage licenses at 1 p.m. today.
Since the highest courts to rule on the issue in the Fourth, Seventh and Tenth appellate circuits have already struck down laws banning gay marriage, and the Supreme Court today has announced it will not affect those decisions, it is believed that six new states within these jurisdictions, namely, Colorado, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia and Wyoming, could very soon have to lift their bans on same-sex marriage. Then, the number of states permitting same-sex marriage would increase from 19 to 30.
Major media outlets, and passionate supporters on both sides of the issue were surprised today. It was expected that the High Court would weigh in on the issue of same sex marriage. Nonetheless, it is this author’s opinion that the U.S. Supreme Court may soon weigh in, but if and when one of the federal appellate circuit courts upholds a ban on same sex marriage. Such a contrary decision would create a conflict with the other federal appellate circuits, which is the most common reason the High Court accepts petitions for certiorari. The ultimate decision of the High Court will depend upon the Justices sitting on the Court at that time, who are appointed for life by the President of the United States when vacancies arise through death or resignation.
Michael I. Santucci
Santucci Priore, P.L.
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