Big news for gay marriage this morning out of Washington. The US Supreme Court denied review of the attempts by petitioners in several states to reverse lower-court decisions that struck down bans on same-sex marriage in Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin.
All of those states, much like Arkansas, had previously banned gay marriage before lower courts struck down their prohibitions. The Supreme Court’s decision to not review the petitions means that it won’t intervene just yet in the fights over same-sex marriage bans that are occurring at the state level all across the country. The Washington Post has a good map of the current state-by-state situation.
That’s good news for LGBT rights in most places, since the majority of courts have ruled in favor of same-sex couples when faced with the question of whether a state can ban gay marriage. With the Supreme Court’s action (or lack thereof), same-sex marriages in IN, OK, UT, VA and WI can now move forward. The flip side, though, is Louisiana, where a federal district judge has upheld that state’s ban, and the Sixth Circuit (Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee), which may be the first federal circuit court to allow a state ban to stand.
Arkansas’s ban on gay marriage was struck down by a state court earlier this year, but that decision has been appealed to the Arkansas Supreme Court, where it has not yet been heard.
Last month Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had suggested that the Court might not step into the controversy at this point, because there was no disagreement among the lower courts on that issue. Today her prediction proved true, with the Court denying review (without any comment) of the seven petitions: Bogan v. Baskin (Indiana); Walker v. Wolf (Wisconsin); Herbert v. Kitchen (Utah); McQuigg v. Bostic (Virginia); Rainey v. Bostic (Virginia); Schaefer v. Bostic (Virginia); and Smith v. Bishop (Oklahoma).
UPDATE: Here’s some clarification and background from Slate.
Today’s move by the SCOTUS does not affect couples in Arkansas — yet — because the Arkansas case has not yet made its way to the federal level. At this point, Arkansas is still hashing things out in the state judicial system.
However, no matter which way the Arkansas Supreme Court eventually rules, its decision surely will be appealed to the federal Eighth Circuit. The Eighth Circuit does not contain any of the five states whose petitions were denied today.