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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, October 10 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 41
Dominoes fall after SCOTUS rejects marriage appeals
Section One
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Dominoes fall after SCOTUS rejects marriage appeals

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

State officials scrambled to respond to the U.S. Supreme Court's surprise announcement that it was denying review in seven pending marriage appeals. The October 6 ruling effectively increased the number of states where same-sex marriage is legal from 19 to 30.

While most states said they would comply with the high court's apparent intention to stand by lower court rulings legalizing Gay and Lesbian marriages, some officials did so only reluctantly and a few said they would fight to the bitter end to block marriage equality.

The day after the Supreme Court announcement, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in marriage cases in Nevada and Idaho, again saying that same-sex couples have an equal right to marry.

'We hold that the Idaho and Nevada laws at issue violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment because they deny lesbians and gays who wish to marry persons of the same sex a right they afford to individuals who wish to marry persons of the opposite sex, and do not satisfy the heightened scrutiny standard we adopted in SmithKline,' Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote for the court.

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, who supervises the Ninth Circuit, stayed and then un-stayed the Nevada decision, allowing marriages to begin in Nevada as SGN goes to press.

On October 9, the Coalition for the Protection of Marriage - the anti-Gay group that had intervened to defend the Nevada marriage ban - withdrew its appeal to the Supreme Court. The high court had already determined that the group had no standing to defend the ban, so their surrender is largely symbolic.

The Idaho decision remains stayed pending review, and Idaho governor Butch Otter has vowed to continue to fight equality.

Kennedy did not explain his stay, but observers think he is concerned about preserving what is called 'regular order' - in other words, the court's usual process of holding up decisions to see if they are going to be appealed.

In the Ninth Circuit's territory, same-sex marriage was already legal in Washington, Oregon, and California. Marriages are beginning in Nevada and will likely begin soon in Idaho. Lawsuits challenging marriage bans in Arizona and Montana are pending.

In the Tenth Circuit's jurisdiction, marriage was already legal in New Mexico. The Supreme Court's decision not to act on the pending appeals leaves standing the decision striking down Utah's ban on same-sex marriage, and Utah officials immediately announced that they would comply with the court's ruling.

'We are a nation of laws and we here in Utah, we'll uphold the law,' Utah Governor Gary Herbert said. Utah Attorney general Sean Reyes said he had issued instructions to the Salt Lake County Clerk to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Oklahoma is also directly affected by the Supreme Court's decision, and county clerks are reportedly waiting for the state's Attorney General to tell them to start issuing same-sex marriage licenses.

In Colorado, the State Supreme Court removed the last legal obstacles to marriage equality by ordering county clerks to issue licenses to Gay and Lesbian couples.

In Wyoming, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) filed a federal lawsuit asking for the state's immediate compliance with the Tenth Circuit's ruling in favor of marriage equality.

In Kansas, the ACLU petitioned a federal judge to immediately strike down that state's marriage ban, but Kansas Governor Sam Brownback said he would continue to defend state law.

'I swore an oath to support the Constitution of the State of Kansas,' Brownback said. 'An overwhelming majority of Kansas voters amended the Constitution to include a definition of marriage as one man and one woman. Activist judges should not overrule the people of Kansas.'

In the Seventh Circuit, Gay and Lesbian marriages are already legal in Illinois, and Wisconsin and Indiana are directly affected by the Supreme Court decision. County clerks in Wisconsin began issuing licenses soon after the high court announced its decision.

In the Fourth Circuit, Virginia was the only state affected by the Supreme Court decision, and marriages have already begun there. West Virginia also announced that it would drop the defense of its marriage ban and begin to issue same-sex marriage licenses.

On the other hand, officials in South Carolina said they would continue to fight Gay and Lesbian marriage. North Carolina officials have been laying low, but the state ACLU said it would ask for an immediate court order allowing same-sex marriages to begin there.

The Eighth Circuit did not have a case at the Supreme Court. Same-sex marriage is already legal in Iowa and Minnesota, and Missouri's Attorney General said the state would not appeal a recent court decision ordering the state to recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages.

The Eleventh Circuit also had no case pending before the Supreme Court, but the Florida ACLU asked a federal judge to lift his stay on same-sex marriage and order immediate compliance with his previous decision that same-sex couples may marry.

Gay and Lesbian marriages are already legal in all the states under the jurisdiction of the First, Second, and Third Circuit Courts - essentially the entire Northeast of the country.

The Fifth and Sixth Circuits have yet to rule on marriage suits and are not affected by the Supreme Court decision.

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