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  • WisBar News
    October 06, 2014

    High Court Passes on Same-Sex Marriage Cases, Wisconsin’s Ban Will Be Lifted

    Oct. 6, 2014 – A federal appeals court ruling that said Wisconsin’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional remains intact, now that the U.S. Supreme Court has declined to consider seven petitions asking the nation’s high court to decide the issue.

    This morning, the Court released a list of petitions it will not hear, including Wolf v. Walker, a case challenging Wisconsin’s same-sex marriage ban. It also denied same-sex marriage petitions that stem from cases in five other states, including Indiana.

    “[A]s a direct result of Monday’s action, same-sex marriages can occur when existing lower-court rulings against state bans go into effect in Virginia in the Fourth Circuit, Indiana and Wisconsin in the Seventh Circuit, and Oklahoma and Utah in the Tenth Circuit,” wrote Lyle Denniston, a reporter for SCOTUS Blog.

    In refusing to hear these cases, the U.S. Supreme Court passed on the core question: whether a state’s ban on same-sex marriage violates a person’s constitutional rights.

    In early September, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled that Wisconsin’s same-sex marriage ban – which passed as a constitutional amendment in 2006 – could not stand. A three-judge panel issued a 40-page opinion to explain why same-sex marriage bans were unconstitutional. The ruling, written by Judge Richard Posner, was stayed pending appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

    The Seventh Circuit said the same-sex marriage bans in Wisconsin and Indiana were discriminating against gay and lesbian couples and those states had no legitimate reason for discriminating, a violation of the right to equal protection of the laws.

    Legal commentators saw these and other same-sex cases as ripe for review by the U.S. Supreme Court, which denied the petitions without explanation.

    “It may take a few weeks for the Court’s action to take effect in real-world terms, in the geographic areas where federal appeals courts have struck down bans in five states – the decisions that the Justices have now left intact,” Denniston wrote.

    “Because those appeals court rulings are binding on all federal courts in their regions, those decisions almost certainly dictate the outcome in six more states.”

    The U.S. Supreme Court’s denial of these cases means that same-sex marriages will ultimately be allowed in 30 states, according to reports, because of federal appeals court decisions that will impact other states in those federal judicial regions.  

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