The U.S. Supreme Court made a historic decision on Monday as it refused to hear any cases on same-sex marriages from lower courts, paving the way for an immediate expansion of gay and lesbian unions.
The pro-equality ruling, which came without any comments from the Supreme Court, allowed five states – Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin, to perform gay marriage ceremonies. Within hours, dozens of gay and lesbian couples decided to tie a knot in those states.
“This is a watershed moment for the entire country,” James Esseks, director of the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project, said in a statement. “We are one big step closer to the day when all same-sex couples will have the freedom to marry regardless of where they live,” he said. “The time has come and the country is ready.”
Gay marriage experts and advocates celebrate the justices’ decision, which makes same-sex marriage legal in 30 states and the District of Columbia, claiming to continue their fight for marriage equality. They believe that the justices have an obligation to settle an issue of such national importance, not abdicate that responsibility to lower court judges.
According to Suzanne Goldberg, who was supporting and defending gay rights before the court in Romer v. Evans, now “additional fifty-one million Americans will live in states that will soon have marriage equality.”
Census Bureau 2013 estimates shows that the total population of those states is about 190 million, which mean that now over 60 percent of the U.S. population lives in a state where marriage equality soon will be legal.
However, opponents of untraditional marriage are extremely frustrated with the development. John C. Eastman, a law professor at Chapman University, said it was “beyond preposterous” for federal courts rather than the democratic process to define the meaning of marriage.
Even though the decision does not establish the same-sex marriage across the whole country, it encourages lawyers for same-sex couples nationwide to battle similar state laws and constitutional amendments shaping a new definition of marriage, which goes beyond a traditional concept of union between a man and a woman.
“[W]e are one country, with one Constitution, and the Court’s delay in affirming the freedom to marry nationwide prolongs the patchwork of state-to-state discrimination and the harms and indignity that the denial of marriage still inflicts on too many couples in too many places,” said Evan Wolfson , president of Freedom to Marry.
“As waves of freedom to marry litigation continue to surge, we will continue to press the urgency and make the case that America – all of America – is ready for the freedom to marry, and the Supreme Court should finish the job.”
Two other appeals courts, in Cincinnati and San Francisco, could issue decisions any time in same-sex marriage cases. Judges in the Cincinnati-based 6th Circuit who are weighing pro-gay marriage rulings in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee, appeared more likely to rule in favor of state bans than did the 9th Circuit judges in San Francisco, who are considering Idaho and Nevada restrictions on marriage, reports the Huff Post.