For those of you who haven’t been glued to your computer all day, today the Supreme Court denied cert on gay marriage appeals cases from the Fourth, Seventh, and Tenth Circuits. In each of those cases, the circuit court had overturned gay marriage bans, and marriage opponents had appealed the decision to the Supreme Court. Also in each of those cases, the decision had been stayed pending the court’s ruling. By denying cert, the Supreme Court declined to hear the cases, meaning that the circuit courts’ pro-gay marriage rulings stand, and also that the stays are lifted immediately. The fives states whose bans were the subjects of these cases (Virginia, Oklahoma, Utah, Indiana, and Wisconsin) will begin gay marriages more or less immediately. The other states covered by those three circuits, but where gay marriage isn’t already legal (Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, West Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina), will have their bans overturned as soon as the circuit courts can make those specific rulings. Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring announced this morning that as of 1:00 PM today, Virginia would begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and the state would begin recognizing out-of-state marriages.
My reactions are twofold: disappointed and pleased. I’m mostly disappointed because by declining to take up the case, the Supreme Court has left the remaining 20 states in continued legal limbo. By this point, every state has a case working its way through the court system, but the remaining 20 states will have to wait at least a few more months, and likely at least another year and a half for a decision. If the Court had decided to take up a case this term, we’d all be crossing the finish line together. And my other, admittedly more petty, moment of disappoint came when I realized that Virginia’s marriage ban was going to end with more of a whimper than a bang. I somehow doubt we’ll be turning out in the streets this evening to celebrate the court deciding not to decide, even if that functionally means that marriage is legal.
I’m also pleased, again for one good and one petty reason. The good reason is that we are at a life stage in which the status of marriage will come in really, really handy, for a variety of legal and financial reasons that are too tiresome to explain. The less good reason is that I’m kind of secretly relieved that Virginia isn’t the last state to have same-sex marriage. We left New York just on the eve of its legalization there, and I got to miss the invigorating feeling of being part of the political cutting edge, of living in a place more enlightened than the rest of America. Virginia is obviously extremely late to the game, especially by the standards of the mid-Atlantic, but hey, at least we’re not the last, and there’s going to be a short period of feeling lucky and enlightened. And hey! We’re the first of the former Confederate States to have gay marriage! At least, by that admittedly incredibly sketchy standard, we can claim some sort of social and political leadership.
And finally, here’s the lamest part of the day. According to the Washington Post,
In Fairfax County, courthouse clerks set up ropes in anticipation of a surge in same-sex couples seeking marriage licenses. But officials then announced that the office handling marriage licenses is temporarily closing so they can make a software tweak to accommodate same-sex marriages.
Really? Nothing in the history of the past five years, let alone the last year of Virginia-specific court decisions, suggested to the official of Fairfax County that they should, uhhhh, figure out how to make their computer work for the gays? Really, Fairfax County?