By Miriam Raftery
October 7, 2014 (Washington D.C.) – Wedding bells will soon be ringing for same-sex couples in many more states, after the U.S. Supreme Court denied hearings on all appeals pending.
American Civil Liberties Union attorney James Esseks called the decision “a watershed moment for the entire country.”
The high court refused to hear appeals of same-sex marriage rulings in five states where appellate courts ruled that bans on same-sex marriages are unconstitutional. However,the decision is expected to expand same-sex marriage rights to a total of 11 states that are all under jurisdiction of the federal appeals courts that ruled same-sex marriage bans unconstitutional. Add those to the number of states where same-sex marriage already is legal, including California, and the U.S. will likely soon have 30 states—a majority--where same-sex marriage is protected.
Both supporters and opponents of same-sex marriage had urged the Supreme Court to decide whether or not same-sex marriage is a constitutional right—and both sides have expressed surprise at the high court’s action.
Tony Perkins, president of the conservative Family Research Council, denounced the decision. “This judicially led effort to force same sex 'marriage' on people will have negative consequences for our republic, not only as it relates to natural marriage but also undermining the rule of and respect for law."
But Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, believes the court should have gone farther, in order to legalize same-sex marriage in states where same-sex marriage has not yet been approved by state legislatures, voters or the courts.
"Today's decision by the Supreme Court leaves in force five favorable marriage rulings reached in three federal appellate courts, ensuring the freedom to marry for millions more Americans around the country,” Wolfson said, then added, “But 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."
The court could still opt to rule on the constitutionality of same-sex marriage in the future. Some legal experts have suggested that the high court might opt to take a future case if a different appellate court should issue a ruling contrary to those that have already weighed in on the issue.
Meanwhile same-sex marriages will commence even in conservative Utah, where the state’s Attorney General has ordered county clerks to start issuing marriage certificates to same-sex couples starting on Monday. Former Utah Supreme Court Justice Dallin H. Oaks, an elder in the Mormon Church, said church members should “said church members should "accept unfavorable results graciously, and practice civility,” also rejecting persecution based on sexual orientation.