Marriage equality now a reality for majority of Americans and 30 states (with 2 more in limbo)

Same sex wedding

As a result of Monday’s Supreme Court decision NOT to take up the issue of same-sex marriage (for now), same-sex marriage is now legal in 30 states, which includes roughly 165 million people, over half the U.S. population. The decision affected 11 states (Utah, Oklahoma, Virginia, Wisconsin, Indiana, Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas, West Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina), so added to the previous 19 states (and DC) that have had marriage equality (which includes our very own California), that comes to 30.

Wait, the Supreme Court deciding NOT to decide brought marriage equality to 11 states? 

That’s right. Here’s what happened. In the last year or so, many states had their same sex marriage bans challenged and struck down as unconstitutional by the courts in these states. These decisions were appealed to higher “appeals” courts, which collectively have authority over 11 states. All the appeals courts upheld the lower court decisions, meaning marriage equality became the law of the land in these states… Except not quite.

The decisions of the appeals courts were then appealed further to the Supreme Court, and while everyone waited for the Supreme Court to take the cases (or not), marriages for same sex couples were put on hold.

Why would they do that?

Because if gay people start marrying in these states, but then later the Supreme Court reverses the appeals courts and says actually the gay marriage bans were fine, this would create havoc and confusion in terms of whether these marriages were valid. It might mean that all those people would suddenly be divorced.

Oh that would be terrible.

Yep. But now that the Supreme Court said it wouldn’t even hear the cases (yes it can do that), there’s not really anything left for anyone to do but start marrying gay people. The decisions that affect the 11 states are kept in place, meaning the bans are struck down, and presto – marriage equality!

Awesome. So what’s the deal with these other 2 states?

Well after the Supreme Court’s decision, another appeals court on Tuesday overturned bans in Idaho and Nevada. This decision was appealed (naturally) to the Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court (well just one of the Justices) said OK maybe we want to take up this case so let’s put gay marriages on hold for these two states while we decide.

Got it. I think.

Photo: "Leaving courthouse on first day of gay marriage in Washington" by Dennis Bratland - Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -
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