Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Editorial: Supreme Court Decides Gay Marriage Issue by Declining to Decide

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Editorial: Supreme Court Decides Gay Marriage Issue by Declining to Decide

Article excerpt

What was expected to be next June's grand finale of the 2014- 2015 term of the U.S. Supreme Court a decision on same-sex marriage turned out to be an opening day blockbuster-by-default: The doors had barely opened on the traditional First Monday in October beginning of term when it was announced that the justices had declined to hear any of the seven gay marriage cases from five states that had been awaiting what the court calls "certiorari."

The narrowest meaning of this action (or non-action) means gay couples in the five states where the lower-court cases originated Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin are free to marry and that marriages already conducted in those states are valid.

The middle-ground reading is that gay marriages must also be allowed in other states in the judicial circuits from which five cases originated. That would add six more states Colorado, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia and Wyoming to a list that soon will number 30 states and the District of Columbia.

The broadest reading is that the debate over gay marriage effectively is over. The court clearly signaled that the question is up to the states. But legal experts say the message is obvious to any lower court that would uphold a ban on same-sex marriage: The decision would be reversed.

What happened does not directly affect same-sex marriage in Missouri, where voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional ban in 2004. But the clock is ticking.

What has more impact in Missouri is Friday's ruling by a Jackson County circuit judge that the state must recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. The decision by Circuit Judge J. Dale Youngs affects more than 5,400 Missouri couples who were married in places where same-sex marriages are legally recognized, including states such as Illinois and Iowa.

Judge Youngs struck down part of Missouri's gay marriage ban for the first time with his order, and said in his ruling that state laws banning the unions single out gay couples "for no logical reason."

That means gay couples who have been legally married elsewhere will be eligible for a wide range of benefits available to opposite- sex married couples in Missouri.

Missouri is having progress imposed on it, but it's progress nonetheless. Judge Youngs' decision is significant in recognizing that married same-sex couples and their families should not be victims of discrimination. The day when same-sex couples are allowed to marry in Missouri can't be too far off.

The judge's decision came in a lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Missouri on behalf of 10 same-sex couples who were legally married outside the state and argued that their rights to equal protection and due process were being violated by Missouri's ban on gay marriage.

"The undisputed facts before the court show that, to the extent these laws prohibit plaintiffs' legally contracted marriages from other states being recognized here, they are wholly irrational, do not rest upon any reasonable basis, and are purely arbitrary," Judge Youngs wrote. …

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