In a move that may signal the inevitability of a nationwide right to same-sex marriage, the Supreme Court on Monday let stand appeals court rulings allowing such unions in five states.Very interesting. What does it mean? Former solicitor general Walter Dellinger said this:
The development, a major surprise, cleared the way for same-sex marriages in Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin. Officials in Virginia announced that marriages would start at 1 p.m. on Monday.
The decision to let the appeals court rulings stand, which came without explanation in a series of brief orders, will almost immediately increase the number of states allowing same-sex marriage from 19 to 24, along with the District of Columbia. The impact of the move will in short order be even broader.
Monday’s orders let stand decisions from three federal appeals courts with jurisdiction over six other states that ban same-sex marriage: Colorado, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia and Wyoming. Those appeals courts will almost certainly follow their own precedents to strike down those additional bans as well, meaning the number of states with same-sex marriage should soon climb to 30.
The more liberal justices have been reluctant to press this issue to an up-or-down vote until more of the country experiences gay marriage. Once a substantial part of the country has experienced gay marriage, then the court will be more willing to finish the job.And yet the fours liberals are not a majority on the court; plus, it only takes the support of four justices to put a case on the docket. Why didn't the conservatives force the issue? For one thing, I suppose, they were afraid of losing, suspecting that Kennedy would join the four liberals on the side of marriage. I also wonder if maybe the most conservative justices (Alito, Thomas, Scalia) are hoping that public opinion might eventually trend back in their direction. There was a lot of excitement in conservative circles this summer when a couple of polls suggested a backlash in the works. Most likely those polls are just blips, but I can see some conservatives not wanting to force a vote now when what they imagine as the gay marriage wave is cresting.
I suppose this counts as good news -- more people can marry. But I am a little suspicious of this non-verdict and I would much prefer a resounding court endorsement.