Monday, October 6, 2014

SCOTUS: Not To Decide Is To Decide

The United States Supreme Court has basically legalized marriage equality in 30 states without having to rule on it.  Via TPM:

By declining to take up gay marriage in the current term, the Supreme Court left intact lower court decisions legalizing gay marriage and cleared the way for same-sex marriage in 30 states and the District of Columbia.

The justices on Monday did not comment in rejecting appeals from Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin. 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.

The court’s order immediately ends delays on marriage in those states. 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.

That would make same-sex marriage legal in 30 states and the District of Columbia.

Experts and advocates on both sides of the issue believed the justices would 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.

This is great news for marriage equality in those states and sets a precedent for the courts that are reviewing pending cases.  On the other hand, it leaves other states such as Florida still on the side of heterosexism.

By dodging the issue in this way the Court avoids — for now — the process of a hearing and a ruling.  It would be very hard to imagine that once they’ve made this non-ruling and allowed the states to immediately grant licenses to same-sex couples that they would reverse themselves.  Once the genie is out of the bottle, it ain’t going back in without a good reason.

Frankly, I wish they would have taken it up and made a definitive ruling on the scale of Roe v. Wade.  This leaves a patchwork of state laws and rulings on the issue, meaning that the states will be forced to deal with it on their own.  Many states were quietly hoping that SCOTUS would pick up this hot potato so they wouldn’t have to.  But they have just handed it back to them.

That said… Hooray!

5 barks and woofs on “SCOTUS: Not To Decide Is To Decide

  1. The trouble with wanting SCOTUS to rule on this is that with the Roberts court a Dred Scott decision is as likely an outcome as a Roe.

  2. “Many states were quietly hoping that SCOTUS would pick up this hot potato so they wouldn’t have to.”

    So State’s Rights are only good when it’s convenient and you can use them to bash the Federal Government.

    • That was pretty clear with the Hawaii case back in ’92, with legalized medical marijuana in California and other places, and with the various state initiatives (Prop 8 in CA, Question 1 in ME, and other places).

      The means to equality is never acceptable to these people: if the federal government decides, then the “states’ rights” shouters take to the legislature; if the legislature votes in favor then it’s challenged in the courts and at the ballot box; if it’s passed by referendum then it’s challenged in court and the state house; and if it’s decided by a court then the “activist judges” shouters take it back to the ballot box and the legislature. No public institution is immune to their wrath if it decides contrary to their wingnut fantasies strongly-held personal beliefs.

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