Hundreds of exultant couples rapidly changed their plans today and did something they did not expect to do, at least on this day – they got married. While most of those same-sex couples were planning nuptials, they changed plans and rushed to take a trip down the aisle today after the U.S. Supreme Court issued a “ruling” today that immediately paved the way for same-sex marriages in five states and set the stage in six others.
The Supreme Court let appeals court rulings stand that allow same-sex couples to wed in five states. The “non-decision” set the stage for same-sex marriages, which began shortly thereafter, in Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin. The fact that the court decision came without explanation or briefings could be interpreted as a definitive approval for same-sex marriage from the high court and clearly signals the inevitability of the legalized same-sex marriages nationwide.
Besides leading to many rushed weddings, the decision is expected to have legal ripples that within weeks will expand same-sex marriage to 30 states. In fact, more than two-thirds of same-sex couples in the U.S. live in states that either already allow same-sex nuptials or will soon. That number could be even higher as other appeals courts issue ruling that take a cue from the Supreme Court.
While couples in the five states involved in the ruling rushed to obtain legal marriages, officials sprung into action in six states that are under the jurisdiction of the federal appeals courts that were involved in Monday’s ruling. Preparations are underway for bans in those states to be overturned quickly. The states involved are Colorado, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia and Wyoming. In fact, one county in Colorado reportedly jumped the gun and began issuing marriage licenses without official clearance.
Supreme Court observers believe that the new “ruling” will transform the landscape for same-sex marriage. Most federal appeals courts have recently ruled in favor of allowing same-sex coupled to wed. The theory is that the court was waiting for public tide to turn rather than moving too quickly before society was ready (which some believe they did with Roe v. Wade and Brown v. the Board of Education).
This slow but steady approach was previously used to allow interracial marriage. The court did not get involved striking down interracial marriage bans until the number of states allowing such unions had grown to 34 in 1967. At the time, large populations in the South still opposed marriage between blacks and whites, but opinions had changed in the rest of the country.
The tide of popular opinion in favor of same-sex marriage has moved even faster than public opinion on interracial marriage. Consequently, it might be that the Supreme Court chose not to get involved now because it no longer sees a need, with considerable populations throughout the country and the majority of young people now supporting same-sex marriages. Many believe that, like interracial marriage, people 50 years from now will be surprised that the bans once existed.
By Dyanne Weiss