The Supreme Court on Monday denied appeals from Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin in which those states sought to prohibit same-sex marriage. The decision also means couples in six other states — Colorado, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia and Wyoming — should be able to get married soon.
The development effectively raises the number of states with legal same-sex marriage from 19 to 30 — a majority of U.S. states — and means that as many as 60 percent of Americans will be living in states that have legalized the practice.
A look at what’s happening Monday in the 11 states affected by the Supreme Court’s denial:
Republican state Attorney General John Suthers said his office will file motions to expedite the lifting of federal and state court rulings that halted gay marriage and will advise county clerks when to issue licenses. In July, at least three county clerks had begun issuing same-sex marriage licenses after the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had struck down the Utah ban. They were ordered to stop issuing those licenses because the court put its ruling on hold pending appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Gov. Mike Pence reaffirmed his commitment to traditional marriage on Monday but said he will follow the law regarding unions of same-sex couples. Pence said people are free to disagree over the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to reject an appeal of a ruling striking down Indiana’s gay marriage ban. But he said people are not free to disobey the decision. County clerks have issued a few licenses to same-sex couples but say they’ve seen no mention of Monday weddings.
The American Civil Liberties Union says that since the appeals from Oklahoma and Utah originated in the 10th Circuit, the decision in those cases will affect states in that circuit, including Kansas. The ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri said it plans to file a lawsuit soon asking a federal judge to block the Kansas law prohibiting gay marriage.
The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina says it will file a request seeking an immediate ruling from a U.S. district judge overturning the state’s ban as unconstitutional. North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper has previously said that a federal appeals ruling overturning Virginia’s ban is binding in his state and that he does not intend to file any further appeals or seek delays.
The Tulsa County Court Clerk’s Office has issued a marriage license to Mary Bishop and Sharon Baldwin, the couple who successfully challenged the state’s ban on gay marriage. The clerk’s office issued the license Monday afternoon. The two were plaintiffs in a challenge to Oklahoma’s ban on gay marriage, which was overturned by a federal appeals court earlier this year. Bishop and Baldwin say they plan to have a wedding ceremony later Monday in Tulsa.
South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson said he will continue to fight to uphold the state constitution’s ban on gay marriage. He pointed out that a judge has not ruled on a lawsuit by a gay couple legally married in Washington, D.C., seeking to overturn the South Carolina gay marriage ban. A lawyer for the same-sex couple, Carrie Warner, said she will soon file paperwork asking a federal judge to immediately rule in their favor. The attorneys said they hope the state will realize that money spent fighting the ban could be used in other ways.
A federal appeals court has lifted its stay in its gay marriage case that the Supreme Court declined to hear. After the appeals order was lifted Monday, Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen said the district attorney’s office gave her approval to issue licenses to gay couples. Troy Williams, the executive director of the LGBT advocacy group Equality Utah, said the organization is overjoyed for the families involved but had hoped the court would take Utah’s case. Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes and Gov. Gary Herbert, both Republicans, have also said the issue needs to be settled by the Supreme Court.
Gay couples have started marrying in Virginia. Thirty-year-old Lindsey Oliver and 42-year-old Nicole Pries received the first same-sex marriage license issued from the Richmond Circuit Court Clerk’s office shortly after 1 p.m. Upon leaving the courthouse, they were married by gay-rights advocate The Rev. Robin Gorsline. The couple said Monday also was the anniversary of a commitment ceremony they held on a North Carolina beach three years ago.
Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, a Republican, said he is still figuring out how the state’s case will be affected. “In light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s surprising decision to not review this matter, we are analyzing the implications for the West Virginia case,” spokeswoman Beth Gorczyca Ryan said in an email.
The Supreme Court’s surprise decision stand set off a scramble among Wisconsin county clerks to figure out how to respond. Those in Milwaukee and Madison said they would begin issuing licenses, and others were expected to follow — particularly once Gov. Scott Walker declared the fight against gay marriage over.
A state district judge has scheduled a Dec. 15 hearing on their request by three same-sex couples and Wyoming Equality to grant the right to marry. The Wyoming case is similar but not identical to those in federal court, and those fighting for gay marriage in Wyoming were hesitant to declare unconditional victory. But same-sex marriage could be legal in Wyoming by year’s end.