Supreme Court Subtly Approves Same-Sex Marriage
Substantial progress was made for the fight for same-sex marriage legalization on Monday, October 6, when the Supreme Court let stand rulings that overturned state bans on same-sex marriage in five states.
The court did not definitively comment on if the right to same-sex marriage is constitutional or not, but by denying to act upon the cases means the lower court rulings stand.
After last Monday’s decision, Virginia, Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, and Wisconsin brought the total number of states with same-sex marriage legalization to 24 states, including the District of Columbia. Many same-sex couples received their marriage licenses that same afternoon. Couples that were married in states which already legalized same-sex marriage – such as Massachusetts, which made this ruling in 2003 – now find their marriages to be more widely recognized.
Along with the five new states added to the list, six more are expected to step towards legalization as well. Colorado, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Wyoming fall within the same jurisdiction as the appellate courts whose rulings the Supreme Court let stand in favor of same-sex marriage on Monday.
The Supreme Court’s decision came without explanation, and only speculation can be made of the individual votes of the nine Supreme Court judges due to the closed-door nature of the proceedings.
While the court didn’t declare same-sex marriage constitutional, the majority of legalization advocates view their denial of the cases as a victory – five more states are on their side, with six more expected to join.
Those in opposition of same-sex marriage view the court’s decision as a setback, but not a final decision. They feel that the Supreme Court’s decision to not definitely state whether or not same-sex marriage is a constitutional right means the debate over “natural marriage” will continue.
However, others question if the court would have allowed the legalization in these five states if they planned to act definitively against same-sex marriage in future cases.
Last year, the Supreme Court took a step towards supporting same-sex marriage when they struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act that banned the federal government from recognizing legal same-sex marriages. The verdict of this case, United States v. Windsor, allowed couples living in states with legal same-sex marriage to receive federal benefits such as Social Security and health insurance.
It wasn’t until Monday, however, that the Supreme Court had to address whether there is a constitutional right to same-sex marriage.
On both sides of the issue, activists are disappointed the court did not make a decision that would affect all fifty states, some calling the court’s denial of the cases irresponsible. The cases from the appellate courts was an opportunity for the Supreme Court to make a ruling on same-sex marriage once and for all, but their lack of definitive action shows they are not ready for this step, instead subtly encouraging the lower courts to continue ruling as many of them have – in favor of same-sex marriage.
This trend follows the ideals of popular American thought – earlier this year, a Washington Post-ABC poll found that a record high of 59% of Americans support same-sex marriage.
With the Supreme Court’s decision last Monday, these supporters are likely to see more progress in the future. Already, a decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on Tuesday upheld same-sex marriage in Nevada and Idaho. The situation created by the Supreme Court is expected to set a trend in support of same-sex marriage throughout America’s courts.