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Supreme Court Won't Hear Gay Marriage Cases In New Term

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Supreme Court Won't Hear Gay Marriage Cases In New Term

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Supreme Court Won't Hear Gay Marriage Cases In New Term

The Supreme Court has denied petitions to review same-sex marriage cases in several states, including Utah. In January, supporters of same-sex marriage held a rally at Utah's Capitol in Salt Lake City. Jim Urquhart/Reuters/Landov hide caption

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Jim Urquhart/Reuters/Landov

The Supreme Court has denied petitions to review same-sex marriage cases in several states, including Utah. In January, supporters of same-sex marriage held a rally at Utah's Capitol in Salt Lake City.

Jim Urquhart/Reuters/Landov

The Supreme Court's new term will not include any cases that might decide the issue of same-sex marriage in the U.S., a development that comes after many lower and appeals courts have ruled against states' bans on gay marriage. Advocates on both sides of the issue have been calling for the high court to review the issue and make an official ruling.

Supreme Court Won't Hear Gay Marriage Cases In New Term

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The court's refusal of all the petitions related to bans on gay marriage means that the appeals courts' decisions allowing gay marriage can now take effect. They had been on hold pending a potential review by the Supreme Court.

As NPR's Nina Totenberg reported in her preview of the court's new term on today's Morning Edition:

"Right now, the only cases pending before the court are lower court decisions favoring the right of same-sex couples to marry. But a Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals panel, which heard arguments last August in Ohio, sounded as if it might go the other way. If it does, that would provide the kind of traditional conflict the Supreme Court looks to resolve."

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Update at 12 p.m. ET: Wide Effects Of Decision

The court denied petitions to review cases in states including Utah, Virginia, Indiana, Oklahoma and Wisconsin. But the effects are wider, as several federal appeals courts had taken up the question.

"For example, in Utah, there have been a whole bunch of marriages actually that were performed," Nina says. "Those will now become legal. The same is true in Virginia and other states in the Fourth Circuit — for example, West Virginia."

Nina notes that because several federal circuits had already overturned bans on same-sex marriage, the court's refusal to review those cases affects 19 states, including some that had already legalized gay marriage.

The court's refusal to review the issue means that same-sex marriage will now be legal in 11 states where it had been banned. On Morning Edition, Nina lists those states, grouping them by federal circuit:

Utah
Oklahoma
Kansas
Colorado
Wyoming
North Carolina
South Carolina
Virginia
West Virginia
Indiana
Wisconsin

Before the justices decided not to intervene, same-sex marriage was legal in 19 states and the District of Columbia and banned in 31 states. Today's development flips that ratio, making it 30 states (and D.C.) where the marriages are legal.

As for the high court's inner workings that may be behind the decision to avoid same-sex marriage cases, Nina tells our Newscast unit:

"One suspects that Justice Kennedy, who's likely the deciding vote in this case, either the conservatives and liberals [on the court] weren't sure how he would vote, or his view was, this should percolate and there should be more states where we know what the views of the country are before we want to take this on as a court."

Update at 10:15 a.m. ET: SCOTUS Calendar And The 'Best Vehicle'

Today's news comes as a surprise to those who suspected the justices might review a same-sex marriage case during the court's new term in order to add more legal clarity to a contentious issue. But it was absent from the court's list of new cases that was issued last week, and it was also missing from additional orders released Monday morning.

The high court held its opening conference last Wednesday; today marks the start of its October term, which will run through June 2015.

On complicated and important issues such as gay marriage, the Supreme Court looks for cases that it sees as the "best vehicle" to decide the issue, an elusive standard whose requirements include strong and clear arguments on both sides of a particular case. As Nina reported this morning, the lawyers who have been touting their own same-sex marriage cases as the best vehicle for the court were said to have "sounded more like car salesmen than Supreme Court advocates."