LGBT+ activists sighed heavily when the Supreme Court of the United States declined to hear any of the many same-sex marriage cases it could have potentially decided. It's upsetting, but we just got a hell of consolation prize: same-sex marriage should be legal in a total of 30 states.
Nineteen states already have marriage equality. Not all of the states affected by SCOTUS's decision to sit this one out will suddenly be allowing same-sex marriage overnight, but it will be part of a rolling process, according to USA Today. So what does such a roll out look like? Well, it seems as if there are at least three, maybe four (because of Louisiana) steps:
The first step is that Virginia, Indiana, Wisconsin, Oklahoma and Utah will now have their lower court rulings go into effect immediately because the justices denied those petitions. Well, as close to immediately as possible. Virginia started us off at 1 P.M.
The second step will be North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, Colorado, Kansas and Wyoming abiding by their own appellate court decisions, although that may take more time administratively. That brings us up to 30, says Evan Wolfson, who is president of the Freedom to Marry organisation:
The court's letting stand these victories means that gay couples will soon share in the freedom to marry in 30 states, representing 60% of the American people. But we are one country, with one Constitution, and the court's delay in affirming the freedom to marry nationwide prolongs the patchwork of state-to-state discrimination and the harms and indignity that the denial of marriage still inflicts on too many couples in too many places.
Except, I'll be honest with Wolfson, I understand his rhetoric and his desire to keep pushing this, but... It looks good, folks. It looks really good. SCOTUS or no SCOTUS. Because the third step is the outstanding appeals cases in Texas, Idaho, Michigan, Nevada (which also affects Alaska, Arizona, and Montana), Missouri, Florida, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Ohio will likely be affected by this decision. Most immediately, Idaho/Nevada/Alaska /Arizona/Montana and Michigan/Kentucky/Ohio/Tennessee. If so, that would bring the total up to 39 states.
It's worth noting here that Louisiana is the one outlier, and may be its own step—in this case, you have the federal courts and the state courts coming to different conclusions. This is the case to watch. And potentially even more cases could go high enough that the precedent could have fairly significant effects, thus leading to marriage equality almost everywhere.
If you're having trouble understanding exactly what the difference between each of these state groups (already have marriage equality, marriage equality granted in a few hours, marriage equality likely coming to other states, and goddammit Louisiana), US Today has made a nice map showing the differences:
People, people. We are 3/5ths to our goal. We may shortly be to 4/5ths. This is truly amazing progress, and we should probably view this as tacit approval from SCOTUS that the federal courts have the right of this. Don't pop the cork on the champagne bottle quite yet, but I think we surely can break out a really fine wine.
Images via Micha Klootwijk/Shutterstock and Screengrab from USA Today.