Following the news today of the Supreme Court denying a request for an extension of the stay in the ruling striking down Alabama's ban on same-sex marriage, the Human Rights Campaign called the odds of SCOTUS issuing an anti-equality ruling later this year "virtually zero".
This may seem like a simple, procedural move -- one the Supreme Court has made in the past in cases ranging from Alaska to Florida. But, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) notes, all those denials took place before the Court had agreed to take a marriage case. The decision to allow marriages to begin in Alabama means something dramatically different now that the Supreme Court oral arguments in a marriage case are just weeks away.
"By refusing to halt marriage licenses in Alabama, the Supreme Court has telegraphed that there is virtually zero risk that they will issue an anti-equality ruling this summer," said HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow. "Instead, the odds of a ruling bringing marriage equality to all 50 states have increased significantly."
In light of the Supreme Court's action today, marriage equality will be the law of the land in Alabama beginning on February 9th, 2015. On January 28th, the Alabama Probate Judges Association issued guidance to all parties that, "on the occasion that the stay is lifted, same sex couples may apply for marriage licenses."
HRC congratulates the countless committed and loving couples in Alabama that will soon be able to marry.
And to the couples in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, Arkansas, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, and Michigan:
Start your wedding plans now.
Buzzfeed's Chris Geidner concurs, saying Justice Clarence Thomas ended all doubt on the matter today:
In denying the Alabama attorney general’s request to keep a U.S. district court order that strikes down Alabama’s ban on same-sex couples’ marriages on hold while the state appeals, the Supreme Court — even as it considers marriage cases out of four other states — made it clear that the justices will not stop same-sex couples from marrying in the meantime when a judge strikes down a ban.
The cases the Supreme Court has agreed to hear — Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee — come out of the one federal appeals court that said bans on marriages for same-sex couples are constitutional. [...]
Given Thomas’ dissent today, the only real question left outstanding is where Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito will end up on the ultimate question. Although both dissented in the Windsor DOMA decision, neither has joined Thomas and Scalia in saying publicly that they would have granted any of the recent stay requests.
The court is expected to hear oral arguments in the cases in April, with a decision expected by late June.
NOM meanwhile, is still grasping at straws:
"A majority of the Supreme Court has cast disrepute on the impartiality of the Court by refusing to follow previous protocol and issue a stay of a lower court ruling while it is being considered by the Court," said Brian Brown, NOM's president. "The issues in play are currently under review by the Supreme Court, and allowing a lower court ruling that overturns a state marriage amendment adopted by over 80% of voters is reckless and undermines the integrity of the Court. We call on the people of Alabama to continue to enforce their state marriage laws."
"A single federal judge does not have the authority to overturn a state marriage amendment and the people of Alabama should refuse to go along with this order," said Brown. "We commend Alabama Supreme Court Justice Ray Moore for ordering state probate judges, who are responsible for issuing marriage licenses, to enforce state law limiting marriage to one man and one woman and to refuse to issue licenses that violate state law. These probate judges have sworn an oath to the people of Alabama and they must honor their oath to the people they serve."