The Supreme Court refused to issue a ruling in a series of five cases involving same-sex marriage in Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin, on Monday, October 6, 2014. This “no-decision” has important ramifications for a highly political subject. Both opponents and supporters claim victory by the Court’s inactivity.
Unbeknownst to many, in general, the Court does not have to accept or decide any cases. That means that when the Court does accept a case there is some high level of importance. Same-sex marriage obviously falls into the category of being a current social concern.
Yet, why did the Justices not issue a ruling? Perhaps the Court was acting in a responsible manner. For example, the upcoming November elections may have had an effect on the behavior of the Court. A decision in either way would have galvanized opposing forces. The Court could have affected the fate of many close political races. It was ultimately a responsible act by the Justices not to get involved with a highly partisan issue at this moment so close to a national election.
Furthermore, since the prior rulings came from the Federal Circuit Court level, covering a total of 16 states, the lower-court judges in those areas should begin accepting same-sex marriages as legally valid. This fact makes supporters of gay rights happy.
Yet, opponents have something to look forward to as well. They expect big wins in the midterm elections because of the widespread dissatisfaction with the Obama Administration and Washington insiders. Conservative forces hope to gain enough votes in Congress to block any liberal federal judicial nominees. They also want to win the White House in 2016, getting a Republican to nominate at least one Supreme Court Justice with less-than-open views towards same-sex marriage. To them, it is better that the Court did not make a decision, leaving open the chance to reverse the seemingly inevitable tide toward legalized same-sex marriage. A court decree would have been difficult to overturn.
Therefore, in the end, both sides live to fight again another day.