by Sean Begin
The Supreme Court made a momentous decision on Monday without hearing a single argument in court.
The court decided not to make a ruling on whether or not states can ban gay marriage, which means that five states (Virginia, Oklahoma, Utah, Wisconsin and Indiana) will now allow the unions to take place.
Those states had bans on gay marriage struck down by lower-court rulings. By choosing to not hear the appeals, the Supreme Court is effectively saying that the lower-courts’ decisions are valid.
In addition to the five states above, the ruling will allow for appeals courts hearing the cases of six other states to follow the precedent they already set and strike down bans in Colorado, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia and Wyoming.
If all the bans are struck down, it would increase the number of states that allow same-sex marriage to 30, a clear majority.
The issue, though, is how slowly the Supreme Court is moving to make a decision regarding a federal decision on same-sex marriage in America.
While the non-decision on Monday is a victory for proponents of same-sex marriage (Virginia officials said unions would start as soon as 1 p.m. on Monday), there are still 20 states that ban the practice.
According to an article in the New York Times, this sort of approach has happened before, when the Court waits for a majority of states to support an issue before making a decision.
In 1967, the Supreme Court finally struck down bans on interracial marriage, but only after the number of states supporting them had reached 34. The majority of America’s still supported a ban on interracial marriage at the time, however.
Unlike interracial marriage, however, popular opinion over same-sex marriage has moved much faster; a May 2014 Gallup poll showed that 55 percent of Americans supported such unions.
The decision to not decide means that states fighting to allow same-sex marriage will continue to fight it out in the lower courts. Part of this is because so many are allowing same-sex marriage that the Supreme Court justices don’t feel the need to step in.
This is flawed logic.
Anyone living in the 20 or so states that still have same-sex marriage bans who wishes to form such a union are still begin forced to go to another state to be wed. Even then, they may not have the same rights and benefits as traditionally married couples.
The Supreme Court is the final word in interpreting the laws written by Congress and signed by the President. With same-sex marriage clearly supported by a majority of states and of the population, the Supreme Court should have made a choice to rule on these cases.
If the justices are satisfied with the way states are handling the issue, why not step in and follow suit by striking down all bans on the practice and allowing same-sex couples the rights and benefits they deserve?