On Friday, the Supreme Court announced it would rule on the legality of gay marriage once and for all.
In 2 ½ hours of oral arguments in April, the justices will consider four cases from Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee. In late June, the court will issue a ruling for the consolidated cases.
The court’s decision will answer the critical question of the homosexual debate: whether gays and lesbians have a constitutional right to marry, or whether states have the right to ban the practice.
The court will also consider whether states must recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.
Parties on both sides of the issue remain optimistic for the ruling’s outcome.
“This is the beginning of the end game on the freedom to marry,” American Civil Liberties Union leader James Esseks told USA Today.
While the 2013 case of United States v. Windsor forced the federal government to recognize gay marriages, the upcoming cases promise to become even more of a pivotal landmark.
“The U.S. Supreme Court now has the opportunity to issue a long-overdue ruling to restore the freedom of the people to uphold marriage in their state laws as the union of a man and a woman,” Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, told USA Today. “Lower court judges have robbed millions of people of their voice and vote on society’s most fundamental relationship – marriage.”
In 2014, Oregon became the 19th state to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry. Just last week, Florida became the 36th state to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, leaving fourteen states prohibiting same-sex marriage.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled last week that the states under its jurisdiction could continue defining marriage as they see fit.
Amid a flurry of recent decisions overturning state marriage laws, the Sixth Circuit’s decision came as a surprise to many.
In so doing, it became the first federal court since United States v. Windsor to rule that states can define marriage as between one man and one woman.
For the time being, the laws of Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan, and Tennessee remain intact. This case came as the result of private lawsuits challenging the marriage laws of each state. Opponents argue the marriage laws violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution.
Judge Jeffrey Sutton wrote for the majority of the court that constitutionalizing the marriage debate would be “demeaning to the democratic process.”
This case came as a surprise to many after several district and circuit courts addressed the issue in the past year, all ruling to redefine marriage.
Since the Supreme Court opened the door in United States v. Windsor, lower courts addressed the issue without a clear rule. The Supreme Court declined a petition to settle the marriage debate nationally, further adding to the uncertainty.
Many observers believe this marriage decision puts more pressure than ever on the Supreme Court to address the issue.
With same-sex marriage legal in more than thirty states and counting, it is only a matter of time before the Supreme Court settles the issue for the entire country.
A survey conducted Monday, October 20 by Operation Rescue reported that five Texas abortion clinics remain closed despite the Supreme Court blocking the pro-life law HB2 and temporarily allowing clinics to reopen.
“Last week’s Supreme Court ruling is only a temporary one that is pending the outcome of the state’s appeal in the Fifth Circuit. We remain confident that the full Fifth Circuit will uphold HB2, then the abortion facilities that reopened will once again shut down,” said Troy Newman, President of Operation Rescue.
Earlier this month, the Fifth Circuit of Court Appeals ordered the closure of 14 abortion facilities for failing to comply with HB2’s safety standards. This was a response to a lower court declaring HB2 as unconstitutional and undue burden on women seeking abortions earlier this summer.
The U.S. Supreme Court then blocked the Fifth Circuit’s decision on October 14, which allowed the clinics to reopen.
“The courts’ various rulings has put us on a roller coaster ride of emotions. Certainly we are not happy that nine facilities that cannot meet minimum safety standards remain dangerously open, but we remain optimistic that a permanent victory is forthcoming,” said Newman.
As of now, five clinics remain closed:
International Health Solutions in Austin
Hilltop Reproductive Health Services in El Paso
Whole Women’s Health in Ft. Worth
AAA Concerned Women’s Center in Houston
Aalto Women’s Center in Houston
It appears that both Houston facilities have shut down permanently, while the three others are attempting to reopen. Some clinics, such as Whole Women’s Health in Ft. Worth, no longer have leases or state licenses, making it difficult to reopen.
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals may hear the case as early as this December.
Emily Horne of Texas Right to Life remains positive regarding the case. “The encouraging thing for us is that this case is still before the 5th Circuit, and the 5th Circuit has already said a lot of positive things about the state’s merit and likelihood of success. And none of that actually changed with what the Supreme Court said,” said Horne.
Texas’ pro-life law requiring abortion clinics observe certain safety regulations is out for now, according to the Supreme Court.
Supreme Court halts pro-life law
The Texas law requires abortion clinics to be within thirty miles of a hospital so that a patient with an emergency could be transported to a nearby surgical center. The District Court ruled the law unconstitutional as an undue burden on a woman’s right to choose under the Fourteenth Amendment.
During the time it was enforced, the law succeeded in shutting down fourteen abortion clinics in the state and preventing an estimated 9,900 abortions, cutting abortions in Texas by 13 percent.
The Court of Appeals permitted the state to continue enforcing its law until the case was resolved.
The Supreme Court overruled, meaning that the law cannot be enforced in the meantime. With three dissenting justices, the Court ruled that the state will have to allow the fourteen abortion clinics to reopen until the case is finally resolved.
The Court has not yet determined when or if the entire case will be settled on its merits. Until then, Texas will reopen its abortion clinics and leave its law unenforced.