WASHINGTON (CNS) – When the Supreme Court declined to review the appeals on rulings striking down same-sex marriage bans as unconstitutional, many people were left second-guessing why this happened and what it means for the future of same-sex marriages and bans on such marriages.
The high court’s action – or more accurately, inaction – gave the immediate go-ahead for same-sex marriages to take place in Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin, where the lower courts’ rulings against bans on such marriages will stand. It also cleared a path for same-sex marriages in six other states within the jurisdictions of these federal circuit courts.
Although the implications of the high court’s move on the first day of its new session were fairly far-reaching, opponents of same-sex marriage and its supporters – for different reasons – were not satisfied.
“Millions of Americans had looked to the court with hope that these unjust judicial decisions might be reversed,” said an Oct. 6 statement from the chairmen of two U.S. bishops’ committees.
“The Supreme Court’s action fails to resolve immediately the injustice of marriage redefinition, and therefore should be of grave concern to our entire nation,” said Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo, chairman of the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, and Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco, chairman of the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage.
While Catholic teaching opposes discrimination against homosexuals, the Church holds that homosexual acts are always immoral and that marriage can only be a union between one man and one woman.
Supporters, pleased by the signal the court seemed to be sending, still wished the judges had been more definitive and state outright that not allowing same-sex couples to marry is discrimination and therefore unconstitutional.
The high court’s failure to take up same-sex marriage led to plenty of changes at the lower court level and some confusion.
On Oct. 7, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down same-sex marriage bans in Idaho and Nevada. Then Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy temporarily blocked same-sex marriages in Idaho and Nevada but lifted the stay for Nevada after a request from state officials. Late on Oct. 10, Kennedy lifted Idaho’s stay, and at least one Idaho county began issuing licenses that afternoon.
Two days later, the attorney general of West Virginia said the state’s ban on same-sex marriage was no longer defensible, while officials in South Carolina, North Carolina, Kansas and Wyoming vowed to fight to keep a ban in their states in effect. However, by Oct. 13, some North Carolina counties began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Other states also were on the brink of allowing same-sex marriages.
U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Burgess in Alaska ruled Oct. 12 that same-sex marriages could proceed there. Gov. Sean Parnell said the state would appeal. That appeal would go to the same 9th Circuit Court that struck down the Idaho and Nevada bans. Alaska has a three-day waiting period for marriage licenses once the applications are submitted. The Associated Press reported applications would be accepted beginning Oct. 13, which is not observed as a state holiday in Alaska.
In Arizona, which also is in the 9th Circuit, a District Court judge gave the parties in two lawsuits challenging the state’s ban until Oct. 16 to file briefs explaining why the prohibition should or should not stand. U.S. District Judge John Sedwick issued an order Oct. 9 saying he thinks the circuit court ruling applies to Arizona’s ban and gave the parties challenging the ban, and the private firm, Alliance Defending Freedom, which is defending the state’s law, one week to respond.
The University of Notre Dame, South Bend, Ind., announced Oct. 8 that it would extend benefits to all legally married spouses of employees, including same-sex spouses, the South Bend Tribune reported.
A fair number of people also took on the role of Monday morning, or in this case Monday afternoon or Tuesday morning, quarterback, trying to second-guess what the Supreme Court justices were thinking and what their next moves might be.
A lot more public deliberation particularly among religious groups and political leaders and candidates has been predicted, noting “the momentum will continue to expand.”