WASHINGTON (AP/WCCO) — The Supreme Court cleared the way Monday for an immediate expansion of same-sex marriage by unexpectedly and tersely turning away appeals from five states seeking to prohibit gay and lesbian unions. The court’s order effectively makes gay marriage legal in 30 states.
Without comment, the justices brought to an end delays in same-sex marriages in five states— Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin.
In Wisconsin, clerks in Milwaukee and Madison plan to start issuing those licenses right away. But in western Wisconsin, St. Croix County’s clerk’s office says they are waiting for a yes or no from their legal counsel since things are still a bit blurry now.
What is clear, couples living in Wisconsin who had gone out of state or country to get married, where same–sex marriage is acknowledged, are for the first time considered married in their own state.
For Toni Cadwallader of Bo Jon’s Flowers and Gifts, she says the news is good for River Falls, Wisconsin, business.
“We get everybody with the weddings taken care of,” Cadwallader said. “If more people can get married, I can sell more flowers.”
For Dr. Phyllis Golden and her wife, Wanda, their marriage 10 years ago in Canada is now officially recognized.
“My wife and I together for so many years are finally married,” she said. “It’s a pleasure to get a surge of good news.”
Couples in six other states — Colorado, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia and Wyoming — should be able to get married in short order. Those states would be bound by the same appellate rulings that were put on hold pending the Supreme Court’s review
No other state cases were currently pending with the high court, but the justices stopped short of resolving for now the question of same-sex marriage nationwide. Still, those 11 states would bring to 30 the number of states where same-sex marriage is legal, plus the District of Columbia.
Challenges are pending in every state.
Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, called on the high court to “finish the job.” Wolfson said 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.”
Ed Whelan of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, an opponent of same-sex marriage, also chastised the court for its “irresponsible denial of review in the cases.” Whelan said it is hard to see how the court could eventually rule in favor of same-sex marriage bans after having allowed so many court decisions striking down those bans to remain in effect.
Experts and advocates on both sides of the issue had expected the justices to step in and decide gay marriage cases this term.
The justices have an obligation to settle an issue of such national importance, not abdicate that responsibility to lower court judges, the advocates said. Opting out of hearing the cases leaves those lower court rulings in place.
Two other appeals courts, in Cincinnati and San Francisco, could issue decisions any time in same-sex marriage cases. Judges in the Cincinnati-based 6th Circuit who are weighing pro-gay marriage rulings in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee, appeared more likely to rule in favor of state bans than did the 9th Circuit judges in San Francisco, who are considering Idaho and Nevada restrictions on marriage.
It takes just four of the nine justices to vote to hear a case, but it takes a majority of at least five for an eventual ruling. Monday’s opaque order did not indicate how the justices voted on whether to hear the appeals.
(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)