October 6, 2014 at 9:56 am EST | by Chris Johnson
Supreme Court declines to hear marriage cases

Supreme Court, gay news, Washington Blade

The U.S. Supreme Court has denied certiorari in each of the five pending marriage cases. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

In an unexpected move, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday announced that it has declined to hear each of the five lawsuits seeking pending before the court seeking marriage equality.

In the order list from decisions made at the Sept. 29 conference, the Supreme Court indicates it has denied each of the seven petitions for certiorari in the cases of Kitchen v. Herbert, Bishop v. Smith, Bostic v. Rainey, Baskin v. Bogan and Wolf v. Walker

The decision means same-sex couples will be able to wed in the immediate future in Utah, Oklahoma, Virginia, Indiana and Wisconsin as soon as federal appeals courts issue mandates to make final their decisions striking down bans on same-sex marriage in those states.

Sarah Trumble, policy counsel for the Third Way, said the denial of certiorari makes sense given the unanimous decisions against the bans on same-sex marriage at the circuit level.

“Every Circuit Court that has ruled on marriage for gay couples has ruled in favor. If the Supreme Court thought that was a problem, they could have easily taken up one of these cases to put a stop to it—but they didn’t because the decisions we’ve seen so obviously follow from their opinion last year in Windsor,” Trumble said. “And this won’t lead to a red state-blue state problem either—with cases moving in every single non-marriage state, it’s only a matter of time before marriage spreads nationwide.”

The denial of certiorari means the court is putting off making a nationwide decision on the constitutional right to same-sex marriage. It would require another petition for certiorari to be filed before the court in a marriage case, but even then justices could once again decline to hear the litigation.

Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, cheered the move from the court, but said justices must act at a later time make a nationwide decision on marriage equality.

“Any time same-sex couples are extended marriage equality is something to celebrate, and today is a joyous day for thousands of couples across America who will immediately feel the impact of today’s Supreme Court action,” said Griffin. “But let me be clear, the complex and discriminatory patchwork of marriage laws that was prolonged today by the Supreme Court is unsustainable. The only acceptable solution is nationwide marriage equality and we recommit to ourselves to securing that ultimate victory as soon as possible.”

In addition to bringing marriage equality to each of the five states which had lawsuits pending before the Supreme Court, the denials are expected to invalidate bans on same-sex marriage in other states within the same circuits. Those states in the Fourth Circuit are West Virginia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and those in the Tenth Circuit are Colorado, Kansas and Wyoming.

Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, said the Supreme Court at later time must go a step further to make the right of same-sex couples to wed a reality throughout the country.

“We are one country, with one Constitution, and the Court’s delay in affirming the freedom to marry nationwide prolongs the patchwork of state-to-state discrimination and the harms and indignity that the denial of marriage still inflicts on too many couples in too many places,” Wolfson said. “As waves of freedom to marry litigation continue to surge, we will continue to press the urgency and make the case that America – all of America — is ready for the freedom to marry, and the Supreme Court should finish the job.”

According to the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, a total of 44,540 same-sex couples co-habitate in the five states that now have marriage equality as a result of denial of certiorari.

Here’s more detail about those numbers:

* Indiana — In Indiana, there are more than 11,000 cohabiting same-sex couples, of whom an estimated 17 percent are raising more than 3,200 children in their homes.
* Oklahoma — In Oklahoma, there are more than 6,100 cohabiting same-sex couples, of which an estimated 21 percent are raising more than 2,500 children in their homes.
* Utah — In Utah, there are more than 3,900 same-sex couples, of whom an estimated 20 percent are raising nearly 1,600 children in their homes.
* Virginia — In Virginia, there are more than 14,200 cohabiting same-sex couples, of whom an estimated 18 percent are raising more than 4,000 children in their homes.
* Wisconsin — In Indiana, there are nearly 9,200 cohabiting same-sex couples, of whom an estimated 20 percent are raising nearly 3,200 children in their homes.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

10 Comments
  • What I get from this decision is that the Supreme Justices realized that the lower courts' decisions were correct, and there was no need for them to go to SCOTUS. I think I understand another reason for this decision. They're allowing the situation to 'sit' in America, so that we can get a stronger idea of how this will affect the nation. It seems a simple equation, but I think they're just waiting to make sure that there are no unseen ramifications from these rulings. Personally, I don't see any, but I think it better for the Court to be cautious, so that when they do rule on SS marriage being the law of the land, they'll have plenty to back them up. I have to believe that the Justices ( regardless of how I feel about them individually ) think in a lawyerly fashion.
    I just can't wait for Texas to fall!

  • My friend David Carltock you are sadly mistaken. The Supreme Court has failed America today. Make no mistake I find rejoice in the fact these States and Commonwealths have upheld the American values I hold so dear. This was a political move to curtail the Constitution of the United States from being upheld. Had they heard this case we the proponent of Marriage Equality and supporters of the Constitution would have prevailed. By not hearing this case they have simply empowered the infringement of the constitution by certain Republican backed and controlled states. Don't be ignorant by celebrating this small victory, Don't be distracted by our win of the battle in these areas.

    Had the Supreme Court heard this case we would have seen a federal ruling forcing these bands be struck down throughout the entire nation. STAND STRONG AND FIGHT TO PRESERVE THE CONSTITUTION. THE SUPREME COURT HAS FAILED OUR COUNTRY TODAY by not hearing these cases and making a ruling. My friend don't be ignorant… this just another obstacle in the fight to preserve the constitution for our entire nation!

  • Firstly, stop calling me 'ignorant' – it makes you out to be a really big jerk, and deeply offends me.
    The fact that the Supreme Court didn't do what you thought they should do is not a failure on their part. They may have failed to do what you wanted them to do, but they did not fail. They acted in a way that they found most appropriate, and while you and I might not know, or like, their reasons, we are also not Supreme Court Justices, and if we put forth that we know what their motivations are, then we're no better than those who oppress us. I don't pretend to be an expert on how SCOTUS works – and I doubt that you do.
    I get rather tired of complaints from people who want everything RIGHT NOW. Brown v The Board of Education didn't make racism stop immediately; if it had, there wouldn't have been a need for the Civil Rights movement.
    Do not mistake my patience for ignorance.

    • Vincent’s impatience is rational and understood. Some of us don’t have the luxury of patience. Many have suffered most of their lives under homophobia and its injustices allowed by laws imposed upon us. Many of us may not live to see full equality under the law let alone enjoy it. It’s easy to be patient when you’re young but not so when you’re not as young as you used to be and realize it could still take years if not decades to achieve our goals.

      It typically takes a generation or two before a controversial gay issue like striking down sodomy laws or allowing gays to serve openly in the military becomes reality. It’s been this way with marriage equality. Over the past thirty years, we’ve achieved a great deal, but the struggle takes a toll on those of us that have had to endure it all those years and frustration over having to wait likely just as long for full justice, equality and freedom. We do not have the luxury of waiting for society to catch up to where it needs to be or should evolve to be. We have to push it forward even if it kicks and screams along the way.

  • This action by SCOTUS was not unexpected, except to the Beltway talking heads and lazy reporters. Ever since the court acted on the Prop. 8 case it's been clear that SCOTUS didn't want to make a final ruling. I won't be surprised to learn some day in the future that the decision to turn down the cases was on a 9-0 vote.

  • The Supreme Court frequently declines to take cases it doesn't have to take. It's part of the doctrine of judicial restraint. It also prefers to let an issue develop as much as possible in lower courts before it steps in. If a Federal Court of Appeal or the highest court of a state rules the other way, THEN the Supreme Court would likely be forced to resolve the conflict.

    That's not unique to this situation, that's how the Supreme Court works.

  • David Carltock good for you, dave! just like a verdict in court. if it doesn't go the public's way, it is called a travesty of justice.

  • @vincent. let me ask you a few questions. how will this affect you? IT WON'T — EVER. if you talk about your kids and what it may do to them, you will never know the kinds of things they think and do, all unimaginable things. will you be able, now, to get up and face the world? will you be able to function when you get up out of bed? i suspect so. if you want to push bible quotes, let me give you this one: 'do not meddle into other people's affair; keep clean thine own house.' if and when you get married, you will go to a church. gays will have a civil marriage, and it won't interfere with yours. and as justice roberts said in DOMA, the people are bothering the courts as this doesn't affect YOU.

  • Good news, but until you get a SCOTUS ruling specifically stating clearly that such bans on marriage equality violate equal protection under the law, the issue won’t be settled and states like Louisiana that come up with stupid excuses to deny the right can stand in the way of justice.

    It never really ends anyway. The christian conservatives will heat up their cries again for a constitutional amendment to ban marriage equality. How seriously that plays in future elections remains to be seen but remember that homophobic attitudes cloaked in religion are still out there and strong just like they are when it comes to racism. Look at abortion, despite Roe v. Wade, they still find ways to attack the ruling and look for ways to get around it.

    Meanwhile, while a majority of states may allow marriage equality legally, we still find ourselves victims of job, housing, public accommodation and services discrimination in a majority of states. The laws are only moving toward justice for people wanting to get married. This does not guarantee equality in the other areas of the law as social conservatives will stonewall that out of spite and their twisted sense of morality!

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