SCOTUS Dodge May Have 'Settled' Gay Marriage
And self-proclaimed 'court-watchers' are shocked at 'bizarre' move
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 6, 2014 1:57 PM CDT
Plaintiffs Sharene and Lori Watsen of Boise, Idaho, hold hands as they wait to enter a gay marriage hearing outside of the US 9th District Court of Appeals on Sept. 8, 2014.   (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

(Newser) – The Supreme Court made a surprise decision this morning by refusing to hear appeals from five states trying to ban same-sex marriage, kick-starting a flurry of "What does this mean?" and "What happens next?" speculation. Some reaction:

  • Under the headline "The Supreme Court Just Quietly Made Marriage Equality The Law Of The Land In Many States," Ian Millhiser writes at ThinkProgress that the "anti-climax" of a decision is, nevertheless, "an earthquake for gay rights" practically speaking. Though Millhiser notes there may be a waiting period and logistical obstacles for same-sex couples, he writes that looming marriages "will make it very difficult for the Supreme Court to reverse course—and retroactively invalidate those marriages—in a subsequent opinion."
  • Over at Slate, Mark Joseph Stern calls the court's move "unexpected and somewhat bizarre," citing his own Slate piece last week in which he noted Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's recent comments that there was "no need for [the Supreme Court] to rush" until circuit courts found same-sex marriage bans to be constitutional. He brings up one other interesting point: "If no circuit court ever rules against gay marriage, the gay marriage question will be effectively settled, and the Supreme Court will never have to wade in again."

  • Agreeing that "almost no one expected that to happen," Lyle Denniston writes at SCOTUSblog that the decision was so surprising because: the Supreme Court had actually been asked to review all seven state cases ("a rare thing … that almost never fails to assure review"); that the court appeared to have given recent indications it was ready "to confront the basic issue"; and that today's decision doesn't exactly sync up with last year's ruling in United States v. Windsor, which struck a major blow to the Defense of Marriage Act, as per the AP.
  • Jonathan H. Adler at the Washington Post, however, wasn't terribly surprised, mainly because all petitions before the Supreme Court had already been nixed by lower circuit courts. Instead, Adler wants to know—especially since the decision came with zero comment from the judges—"is what Justice Anthony Kennedy thinks. … Is he ready and willing to hold that the Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage? Or is he still conflicted given his federalist sympathies?"