On Monday, Oct. 6, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court denied review of all five pending same-sex marriage cases, in effect allowing marriages to proceed in Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin. This decision signals that the justices will likely not soon intercede in the decisions being made across the country upholding gay marriage. It is unlikely that they will act until the federal appeals courts become divided.
There are now 24 states in which same-sex marriage is allowed in the U.S. The last instance in which the Supreme Court heard a case on same-sex marriage was in December 2012 when California’s Proposition 8 was challenged on constitutional grounds; the court avoided any definitive opinion on constitutionality in United States v. Windsor. The justices were deeply divided on this issue as evidenced by the opinions produced from the Windsor case.
It is also likely that the court will avoid the topic of same-sex marriage until the number of states allowing these arrangements becomes much higher. The court appears to be following the precedent that was set when striking down bans on interracial marriage; they waited until 1967 to rule on the topic after the number of states allowing interracial marriages reached 34.
Despite the Supreme Court’s decision affecting Indiana, BGD partner Michael Kohlhaas explains that same-sex couples in Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin may still want to exercise caution before tying the knot.
“It’s still possible that the U.S. Supreme Court could take up this question in a future term, and essentially reinstate [the state’s] ban, leaving those who legally married in a complex legal quandary,” he said. “In addition, the risk of getting married now and then later moving to a state that does not recognize same-sex marriage or divorce still remains, creating a complex situation with no easy answer.”
In the meantime, it appears that state definition of marriage will go unchallenged by the highest court in the U.S., leaving the option to marry open to Indiana same-sex couples.