Following the Supreme Court’s June 2013 ruling invalidating part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a number of courts have addressed whether state laws prohibiting same-sex marriage are permissible. So far, five out of the 13 federal appeals courts have issued decisions on same-sex marriage bans.
State laws prohibiting same-sex marriage have been invalidated by the 4th Circuit, 7th Circuit, 9th Circuit and 10th Circuit. On November 6, 2014, the 6th Circuit upheld state bans on same-sex marriage and ruled that the same-sex marriage issue should be decided in each state through the regular political process and not through the court system. This decision conflicts with the decisions from the other appeals courts, which created a split between the federal appeals courts on the same-sex marriage issue.
In October 2014, before the 6th Circuit’s decision was issued, the Supreme Court declined to hear appeals in the other same-sex marriage cases, indicating that the main reason the Supreme Court decided not to review the issue was that there was not a split in decisions among the federal appeals courts at that time.
On January 16, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear appeals in same-sex marriage cases from Ohio, Tennessee, Michigan and Kentucky, and will take on the issue of whether same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry or whether states are permitted to ban gay marriage.
In its review, the Supreme Court will focus on the decision by the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals that upheld bans on same-sex marriage in Ohio, Tennessee, Michigan and Kentucky. These four states are among the 14 states that still have bans on same-sex marriage. Currently, same-sex marriage is available in 36 states and the District of Columbia.
The Supreme Court is expected to hear oral arguments in late April 2015 with a ruling expected to be issued in the summer.
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