Gay marriage expands

A decision by the high court legalized same-sex marriage in five states on Monday.

John Thomas

Same-sex marriage is legal for the majority of country as of Monday.

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear appeals from five states that sought to keep same-sex marriage prohibited, surprising most observers. The decision immediately legalized gay marriage in Wisconsin, Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah and Virginia.

University of Minnesota experts say the Supreme Court’s decision could put federal legalization of gay marriage on hold for years.

“They have effectively delayed the point where we’ll have a uniform national legal outcome on this issue,” said Kathleen Hull, a sociology associate professor at the University.

Hull said everyone on both sides of the issue expected the court to take up one of the five cases this session, so its decision to leave them alone is a surprise.

Before Monday, same-sex marriage was legal in 19 states and Washington, D.C. Minnesota legalized the practice last year.

Same-sex marriage legalization had been challenged in the five states the Supreme Court declined to rule on.

By turning down the chance to rule on the issue, the high court legalized same-sex marriage in those five states, all of which can immediately start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, said Timothy Johnson, a political science professor at the University.

But six other states — Colorado, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia and Wyoming — fall in the same federal court circuits as the five that were in contention.

Before same-sex marriage is legal in those states, lower courts will need to act, Johnson said.

It’s unclear if or when the Supreme Court will take up a same-sex marriage case. Four other cases are currently making their way through the federal appeals process, Johnson said.

“They’re asking essentially the same question, and that is if there’s federal protection for gay marriage,” he said.

Since every federal appeals court has struck down bans on same-sex marriage, the Supreme Court probably won’t feel the need to rule on the subject until a ban is upheld, Johnson said.

“It could be a couple of terms from now,” he said, “but it could be that they hear it this term.”

Though LGBT leaders nationwide celebrated Monday’s news, at least one student leader at the University worries the success of the gay marriage movement has drawn resources from other LGBT issues that she views as more important.

Anya Titova, facilitator of Arch, a University student group that specializes in helping students come out as LGBT, said she sees same-sex marriage’s federal legalization as inevitable.

But, she said, that legalization isn’t an “end-all solution.”

Gay marriage advocacy has sapped resources that could have been employed elsewhere, Titova said.

“There’s going to still be the issue of employment discrimination, health care discrimination and international issues as well,” she said.

Most of the people who benefit from same-sex marriage being legal already have a lot of privilege within the LGBT community, Titova said.

Meanwhile, issues like transgender rights and queer youth homelessness aren’t receiving attention, she said.

“I know that [same-sex marriage] benefits a lot of old people especially, but I feel like there are things that I’m more concerned about on a regular basis,” Titova said.


The Associated Press contributed to this report.