On October 6, 2014, the Court was expected to take appeals from 5 states (Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin) seeking to uphold their bans on same-sex marriage. Instead, the Court declined to hear the states’ appeals, paving the way for an expansion of gay rights across the United States.
The Supreme Court’s refusal to entertain those states’ appeals means that same-sex marriage will now become legal in those states following lower court rulings striking down the states’ ban on same-sex marriages. Additionally, couples in six other states – Colorado, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia and Wyoming – should be able to get married in “short order,” according to the Associated Press. Those states are covered by the jurisdictions of the courts involved in the defeated appeals.
The implications of the Court’s decision means that same-sex marriage will become legal in 30 states and the District Columbia – with now only a minority of states maintaining bans on same-sex marriage.
While the Court’s decision is a big step forward for marriage equality, the Court continues to decline to address the underlying issue of whether sexual orientation is a protected interest under the United States Constitution. Without that recognition, states can continue to make individualized decisions regarding the legality of same-sex marriage and can continue to refuse that right to same-sex couples.
Following the Court’s decision, Evan Wolfson, President of the campaign group Freedom to Marry, urged the Supreme Court justices to “finish the job.” Said Wolfson: “We are one country, with one constitution, and the court’s delay in affirming the freedom to marry nationwide prolongs the patchwork of state-to-state discrimination and the harms and indignity that the denial of marriage still inflicts on too many couples in too many places.”
In the tri-state area, the Supreme Court’s decision means that same-sex marriage is now legal in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.