Thirty-two states on both sides of the marriage equality divide have asked the nation’s highest court to declare who’s right.
In a brief filed with the justices on Thursday, a group of states that have already legalized same-sex marriage urged the high court to hear lawsuits out of Oklahoma, Virginia, and Utah – cases which have all sided with gay and lesbian couples at both the district, and appellate levels. In a separate brief, a group of states that still ban same-sex nuptials also asked the justices to weigh in and clear up the “morass” of lawsuits.
“Laws that bar same-sex couples from marrying are discriminatory and unconstitutional,” said Attorney General Martha Coakley of Massachusetts, the first state to allow gay and lesbian couples to wed. “The time has come for this critical issue to be resolved.”
Joining Massachusetts were California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Washington – all states that have legalized same-sex marriage either through the courts, or through legislation. Signing onto the other brief were Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, West Virgina, and Wisconsin.
Three appeals courts have so far declared same-sex marriage bans to be unconstitutional, the latest being the 7th Circuit court, which overturned bans in Wisconsin and Indiana on Thursday. That number could easily go up with the 9th Circuit slated to hear arguments on Monday in marriage equality cases out of Hawaii, Idaho, and Nevada. The 6th Circuit, which seemed more skeptical of arguments in favor of same-sex marriage during a hearing last month, could also issue a ruling any time.
Though both plaintiffs and defendants in suits out of Oklahoma, Virginia, and Utah have asked the Supreme Court to review their cases, the justices are not required to do so. Given the momentum the marriage equality movement has generated, however, and now, the growing chorus of voices putting pressure on the court to settle the issue nationally, it’s unlikely the justices would refuse to oblige. Later this month, they will begin meeting to select cases for the upcoming term.