The Supreme Court stay of a federal court decision allowing same-sex marriage in Utah doesn’t trouble me in the slightest. It was to be expected. As we saw with its rulings last year legalizing such marriages in California and striking down the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the high court is super-cautious on the question of marriage equality.
That a federal judge in Utah tossed out the state’s ban on gay marriage was remarkable. Even more stunning is the more than 900 same-sex couples in Utah who have gotten hitched in the 17 days since the judge ruled that the prohibition violated the equal protection guarantee in the U.S. Constitution.
Wrap your mind around that. There are legally married gay and lesbian couples in one of the reddest states in the nation. What it also means is that there are two classes of same-sex couples in Utah. The ones who are legally married can now avail themselves of all the rights and responsibilities that accrue to marriage on the federal level. The others? Well, they can’t do anything until the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit hands down its expedited ruling this year.
But what today’s Supreme Court action does is guarantee that more lawsuits will be filed to get the justices to do what they opted not to do last June: rule in favor of a constitutional right of same-sex couples to marry. This is a “when,” not “if,” proposition. With same-sex couples already able to marry in 17 states plus the District of Columbia, it’s just a matter of time, folks.
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