On Monday, October 6, 2014, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) declined to hear a number of cases involving marriage equality. The Court gave no explanation for this decision, though its refusal to be involved in the same-sex marriage debate means that the decisions by the Courts of Appeals invalidating same-sex marriage bans will stand.
Several Courts of Appeals had ruled in favor of marriage equality, striking down any same-sex marriage bans on the basis that such bans violate the constitutional rights of gay couples. Specifically, courts reasoned that bans violated the rights of homosexual couples wishing to marry to equal protection of the laws. Many of the states within these judicial districts had appealed the decision to allow gay marriage, asking SCOTUS to review the rulings.
Though SCOTUS has refused to hear gay marriage cases at this point, this may change in the future if a Court of Appeals decides to uphold a state’s same-sex marriage ban. In that case, the high Court will likely have to sort out the conflicting decisions.
The Quick Expansion of Same-sex Marriage Rights
When SCOTUS declined to review the Courts of Appeals rulings, the justices opened the door for same-sex marriage to be quickly legalized in numerous states. The effect of the decision was noticed almost immediately, as same-sex couples gained the right to legally marry in several more states over the next 48 hours. Courts in Virginia reportedly started issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couple only hours after SCOTUS announced its decision. In addition to this immediate effect, many states have had court rulings in favor of same-sex marriage and though additional action is required, the path is open for marriage equality to take effect in the near future.
At this time, same sex marriage is fully legal in the following states: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Virginia, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, and Washington, D.C. Several other states are expected to see their bans invalidated in the next few days. Additionally, the other federal court circuits who have not yet issued decisions are expected to rule on the issue in the coming months.
What does this mean for Florida?
In Florida, the constitutional ban on same-sex marriage currently remains in place for the time being. Several judges in lower courts have ruled in favor of marriage equality. These cases are now pending review by the appellate courts, which can either uphold or reverse the decision. The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit is also expected to review a decision on gay marriage and any pro-marriage equality ruling in that court would affect the state of Florida, as well.
Though same-sex couples do not yet have the right to marry nationwide, it seems to be only a matter of time following the SCOTUS decision. If you have any questions regarding marriage or divorce of any kind, please call the Boca Raton family law office of Alan R. Burton for help today.