Ever since the Supremes came back into session it seems like not a day goes by without a gay marriage story coming out. It was only in the past 48 hours that news emerged that bans on same sex marriage in Idaho and Nevada were effectively dismissed when the high court chose not to act on the 9th Circuit Court’s decisions. But there was a difference between the two cases, namely that Idaho requested an emergency stay. As often happens in such instances, a single justice – in this case Anthony Kennedy – is able to put the situation on hold.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday temporarily blocked the start of same-sex marriages in Idaho while it reviews a request from the state for the high court to hear an appeal on its wedding ban.
A three-judge panel of the San Francisco-based Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down same-sex-marriage bans in Idaho and Nevada on Tuesday, acting shortly after the high court expanded gay-marriage rights by allowing restrictions to fall in five other states.
Justice Anthony Kennedy, who oversees the judicial circuit that covers Idaho, issued the order. The Supreme Court typically grants such temporary stays in highly-contested cases, and in general they don’t indicate how the justices ultimately will resolve an issue.
That last paragraph is the key one as far as what this all means. The bottom line is that we shouldn’t read anything into it. Kennedy is not ruling in favor of or against gay marriage in Idaho or anywhere else. He’s simply inserting a pause in the process and allowing the court to decide if further action is warranted. From here, we’ll have to wait and find out if they plan to take this question up at the request of Idaho or if they will decline yet again. If that happens, it doesn’t sound like there are any other impediments left in the pipeline and licenses will be issued in Idaho shortly thereafter.
I’ve heard several theories as to why the SCOTUS justices have been trying to keep their hands off this one, and at this point I suppose one is as good as the next. There are opposing camps who each feel that one or the other subsets of justices are afraid that the votes aren’t there to support their preference, so they’d rather punt. Perhaps an even more likely explanation is that none of them wants to be branded as the gang who imposed their decision on such a hot button topic and they’d rather wait until nearly all of the states and the lower courts have weighed in. (The latter is my personal preference if I had to guess.)
Either way, we should know about Idaho in short order, even if all we find out is that we have to wait even longer.