In an attempt to remain detached from the national debate over same-sex marriage, The Supreme Court left a ruling from a lower court intact Monday, which will legalize gay marriage in 11 additional states.
This surprise decision from the justices will immediately affect five states: Virginia, Indiana, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, and Utah. These states were in the appeals process to obtain bans on same-sex marriages. This ruling will also affect North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, Colorado, Kansas, and Wyoming.
The next steps in the process will occur slowly. For the five states whose petitions were denied, same-sex marriage will be legalized rather quickly—entering into affect at 1PM EST on Monday October 6th. However, the other six states will require either approval by their attorney general or need another court date.
This number could quickly increase if the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals follows suit. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is currently reviewing more petitions to ban same-sex marriage in Idaho and Nevada. If these petitions are denied, the ruling would also affect Alaska, Arizona, and Montana.
In Utah, just hours after the ruling came down from the high court, Governor Gary Herbert said he felt “surprised” and “disappointed” that there was no “finality” on the issue of same-sex marriage. “Regardless of your personal beliefs,” he urged, “…please treat each other with respect and with kindness as we transition through this new law.”
While the court’s decision does not rule out the an eventual, final ruling on the issue, it does go to show that the Supreme Court is not yet ready to jump into the heated debate at this time. Some have suggested that the court decided to stay out of the way so it could let states make up their own minds on the hot-button topic.
One thing is true after today’s ruling—the absence of a definite ruling in one direction from the Supreme Court means that the debate is far from over.