Guest post by Daniel Bennett
The U.S. Supreme Court wasted little time making headlines on the first day of its new term, declining to review several cases involving the constitutionality of gay marriage bans in several states.
Bottom line: same-sex marriage is now protected in 11 more states.
In our federal judicial system, cases come up through lower courts that are regional. States whose bans were overturned in various lower courts wanted the Court to review (and ultimately reverse) these rulings. Instead, the Court’s denial means that decisions from these courts are binding. The Supreme Court, by refusing to hear these cases is effectively saying that states in the jurisdiction of the Fourth, Seventh, and Tenth circuits cannot deny gay couples the ability to marry. Same-sex marriage will therefore be legal in 11 new states, bringing the nationwide total to 30.
The Court’s actions today are not surprising. Justice Ginsburg recently suggested that the Court would not step in unless there is conflict among lower courts, the most common reason for review. Because each appellate court has deemed the bans unconstitutional, there is no conflict.
However, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals appears poised to uphold gay marriage bans passed in its states. If it does, there will be very clear conflict among the lower courts, and the Court would likely have to review that decision.
In the meantime, though, the Court is content to let the lower courts have the last word. And this means no national consensus on gay marriage for a little while longer.
Daniel Bennett (@), PhD, researches the conservative legal movement. He is a professor of political science at Eastern Kentucky University.