Metro Weekly

Supreme Court silent on same-sex marriage cases

Photo: U.S. Supreme Court. Credit: Todd Franson/Metro Weekly.

U.S. Supreme Court – Photo: Todd Franson/Metro Weekly.

The U.S. Supreme Court took no action Friday on a series of cases challenging same-sex marriage bans in five states that have been petitioned for review by the court.

The justices met earlier Friday behind closed doors to consider a number of cases petitioned to be heard by the high court, including challenges to same-sex marriage bans in Louisiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee. The court issued orders, including the dismissal of a case the justices originally granted review of, but did not grant review of any new cases.

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In November, plaintiffs in the Louisiana case asked the Supreme Court to hear the case before a federal appeals court has rendered judgement. In September, U.S. District Court Judge Martin Feldman found constitutional a Louisiana law prohibiting same-sex marriage and recognition of same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions, marking the first federal court decision to uphold a state ban on same-sex marriage since the Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act in June 2013. The state of Louisiana agreed with the plaintiffs that the Supreme Court should address whether the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution requires states to license or recognize same-sex marriages.

In a 2-1 decision handed down Nov. 6, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld same-sex marriages bans in four states — Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee — breaking with other federal appeals courts that have considered the issue. The Supreme Court has been asked to consider all four state marriage bans by plaintiffs in the four cases. With the exception of Tennessee, all of the states defending those respective bans have agreed the court should hear the cases.

The Supreme Court has no obligation to take up any of the cases, nor are they restricted to a specific time frame for announcing their decisions. Four of the nine Supreme Court justices must vote to hear a case in order for a writ of certiorari to be granted. The breakdown of those votes are not released by the court, nor the justices’ reasons for granting or denying a petition to hear a case. But it appears increasingly likely that the justices will feel compelled to act, particularly now that a split exists among the circuit courts.

The Supreme Court will issue additional orders Monday at 9:30 a.m. If the justices still do not take action on the five cases, they will likely be considered again at next Friday’s conference. In order for the cases to be heard this term, which ends in the spring, the justices would likely need to agree to take up the cases before the end of January.

Meanwhile, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans heard arguments Friday in cases challenging same-sex marriage bans in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. According to reports, the three-judge panel seems poised to strike down those bans as unconstitutional. Audio of the oral arguments can be heard here.

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Justin Snow is Metro Weekly's former political editor and White House correspondent. Follow him on Twitter @JustinCSnow.

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