Two days after the U.S. Supreme Court ducked the chance to potentially legalize marriage equality once and for all, the nation seems to be doing it anyway.
As evening fell Wednesday in Kansas, a judge ordered the state's most populous county to begin issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples. Kansas belongs to the same federal appeals court circuit, the 10th, as Utah and Oklahoma, two states with marriage equality cases that the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear on Monday.
By declining to review those cases, as well as similar suits out of Indiana, Virginia and Wisconsin, the justices gave the last word to federal appeals courts covering those states -- the 4th, the 7th, and the 10th circuits -- all of which found same-sex marriage bans to be unconstitutional. Essentially, the Supreme Court's inaction on the matter doomed same-sex marriage bans throughout those three circuits, clearing the way for gay and lesbian couples to marry in 11 more states.
"Although no federal court has been asked directly to address the provisions of state statutory or constitutional provisions, our district court clerks and judges are entitled to be free of any ambiguity in the administration of justice and the issuance of marriage licenses," said Chief District Judge Kevin Moriarty of Johnson County, Kansas, in his order. The Kansas Supreme Court has yet to give statewide guidance about issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, the Associated Press reported.
Colorado Attorney General John Suthers directed county clerks on Tuesday to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in that state, also part of the 10th Circuit. Over in South Carolina, which is bound to the 4th Circuit, the Charleston County Probate Court announced on Wednesday that it would begin issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples as well. Later in the day, the state's Republican attorney general asked the South Carolina Supreme Court to block same-sex nuptials from going forward, but legal experts anticipate that effort will ultimately fail. And finally, in another 4th Circuit state -- North Carolina -- a federal judge on Wednesday lifted his hold on legal proceedings in two challenges to the state’s same-sex marriage ban, signaling his intention to strike it down.
Marriage equality also took hold Wednesday in Nevada, following a ruling from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that found same-sex marriage bans to be unconstitutional. That ruling also applied to Idaho, but Justice Anthony Kennedy granted an emergency request Wednesday from state officials to temporarily block same-sex nuptials from going forward.