When the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday announced it would not consider marriage equality this term, the justices let stand rulings from three appellate courts: the 4th, 7th, and 10th Circuits. It was welcome news for civil-rights proponents, but for those engaged in the debate, there was a lurking realization: more appellate courts were poised to rule any day now.
As it turns out, Americans didn’t have to wait too long. The 9th Circuit ruled today, striking down Idaho’s and Nevada’s bans on marriage equality.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco made the ruling Tuesday. It did not decide on a similar case in Hawaii, which legalized gay marriage in December. […]The appeals court ruled that gay couples’ equal protection rights were violated by the bans. Judge Stephen Reinhardt said during oral arguments in September that he expects the Supreme Court ultimately will decide whether gay marriage bans are constitutional.
here (pdf). It was written by Judge Reinhardt, a Carter appointee.The entirety of the 9th Circuit’s ruling is online
It’s starting to look like a real possibility that the lower courts will be unanimous on the issue of equal-marriage rights for all, raising the possibility that the Supreme Court will never have to weigh in on the subject because it will be moot – every state will be covered, through the will of voters, elected policymakers, court rulings, or some combination therein.
At this point, it’s easy to get a little lost as to where the landscape has changed, so let’s take stock of what we’ve learned over the last couple of days.
As msnbc’s Emma Margolin reported, when the Supreme Court took a pass on pending appeals, it immediately legalized same-sex marriage in five states: Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
At the same time, the justices’ inaction also cleared the way for marriage equality in six additional states: Colorado, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Wyoming. Of those six, Colorado announced today that it would begin making marriage licenses available to same-sex couples immediately. The other five are either planning to keep the anti-gay legal fight going or still weighing their options.
Idaho and Nevada were not part of yesterday’s breakthrough at the Supreme Court, but their respective bans on marriage equality were ruled unconstitutional today by a federal appeals court. The states, if they choose, can now take their cases to the high court, but it doesn’t seem like the justices are especially interested right now.
So where does that leave us? As of this afternoon, the nation is on track to see marriage equality in 32 states, plus the District of Columbia, up from 19 last week.
As the remaining states must realize, the question isn’t whether equal rights are extended in all 50 states, but when.