One day after the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on pending marriage litigation that could establish a national rule across the country, the Eighth Circuit issued an order indicating lawsuits seeking marriage rights gay couples in South Dakota, Nebraska, Arkansas and Missouri are now on hold. As a result, oral arguments previously scheduled before the circuit court May 12 in Omaha are now cancelled.
“On the court’s own motion, oral arguments and any further consideration of these cases will be deferred pending the Supreme Court of the United States’ decisions in Nos. 14-556, 14- 562, 14-571, and 14-574 James Obergefell, et al. v. Richard Hodges, etc., et al,” the order says.
The decision to hold off the cases is striking because the court initially decided to schedule oral arguments for cases within the Eighth Circuit last month when it was already known the Supreme Court would take up litigation that could decide the issue at a nationwide level.
Joshua Newville, an associate attorney at the Minneapolis-based law firm of Madia Law LLC and co-counsel in the South Dakota case, expressed consternation the Eighth Circuit halted further proceedings in the marriage litigation.
“This process has been a painful one for my clients, and the Court’s action today adds to the roller-coaster they’ve been forced to endure,” Newville said. “Despite a South Dakota district court victory nearly five months ago, families across the state still suffer daily harm and humiliation as they are denied basic equal rights and dignity. Despite winning their case and showing that they were deprived a basic fundamental right, they’ve had that victory put on hold, effectively being told by the courts that their rights take a back seat to a very lengthy and convoluted appeals process.”
The Eighth Circuit isn’t alone in holding off on marriage litigation until a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court. The U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals has halted litigation in Alabama, Georgia and Florida, while the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals has stayed a lawsuit filed in Puerto Rico.
But the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in January for litigation challenging bans on same-sex marriage in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi and seems poised to rule against the laws in those states. A decision from the court could come down at any time.