Supreme Court Primed to Discuss Several Gay Marriage Cases
Mark your calendars: the Supreme Court is scheduled to consider its next steps on gay marriage when the justices meet for the first time since their summer break.
The court on Wednesday listed gay marriage petitions from five states – Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin – for consideration at its Sept. 29 private conference. Officials in those states are asking the court to decide whether state bans on same-sex marriage are constitutional.
The justices use the September meeting to wade through stacks of appeals that pile up during the court’s three-month recess. The court at some point after the conference is expected to add several of those cases to its docket for the term that begins Oct. 6. Court watchers are eagerly awaiting word on whether one or more gay marriages cases will be among them.
The court is under no obligation to act right away. It’s possible the court could take additional time to mull its options, particularly because of fast-moving developments in other gay-marriage litigation.
Litigants, as well as lower court judges, are racing to have their voices heard before the Supreme Court makes its next move. Three federal appeals courts this summer have ruled against state gay-marriage bans, including one that issued a lightning quick decision last week. The Chicago-based Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down prohibitions from Indiana and Wisconsin in a 40-page opinion issued a mere nine days after the court heard oral argument.
Not to be outdone, attorneys general from those two losing states moved even faster in appealing the Seventh Circuit’s ruling to the Supreme Court. Indiana and Wisconsin each filed petitions with the high court Tuesday, jockeying to have their cases be the ones in the spotlight. Challengers to bans in those two states filed responses with the Supreme Court right away, also urging high-court intervention. The sprint to submit the documents allowed the two cases to make the list for the justices’ first private conference, a remarkably swift turnaround time rarely seen at the court.
With the new filings, there are now seven petitions on gay marriage pending at the Supreme Court.
Additional lower courts could issue gay marriage rulings before the Supreme Court decides on a course of action. At the top of that watch list is the Cincinnati-based Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, which last month heard arguments in cases from four states: Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee. Some court watchers believe it’s possible the Sixth Circuit could split from other appeals courts and uphold state bans on same-sex marriage. If that happens, it’s a virtual certainty that the Supreme Court would step in and resolve the disagreement.