Eleventh Circuit says it will wait for Supreme Court on same sex marriage

A federal appeals court stated in a memo that it would take no further action in same-sex marriage cases in that circuit until the US Supreme Court decides the issue later this year. The decision does not affect same-sex couples in Alabama.

Sharon Steinmann/AL.com/AP
Cari Searcy, left, and her wife, Kim McKeand, plaintiffs in the case that struck down Alabama's same-sex marriage ban, hold a news conference with their lawyers in front of the Mobile County Marriage License Office at Probate Court in Mobile. On Tuesday, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals refused to block a federal judge's ruling that the state's ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional.

[Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly stated the 11th Circuit's memo.]

A federal appeals court stated in a memo to counsel and other parties that there would be no further action in those and other same-sex marriage cases in that circuit until the US Supreme Court decides the same-sex marriage issue later this year.

The appeals court's memo does not change or impede a federal judge’s order that same-sex marriages begin in Alabama on Feb. 9.

And Alabama's request to the Supreme Court to intervene and block that lower court order is still pending. 

At issue before the Eleventh US Circuit Court of Appeals was whether to issue a stay that would put on hold two decisions last week requiring Alabama officials to recognize and permit same-sex marriages.

Alabama currently bans such marriages by statute and a constitutional amendment. The federal judge declared that those restrictions violate the US Constitution.

After those rulings, Alabama asked the appeals court to put the decisions on hold until the case could be appealed and until the US Supreme Court decides the same-sex marriage issue in the cases now before that court. The high court is expected to hear oral argument in four consolidated same-sex marriage cases in April and issue a decision by late June.

Despite the prospect of a high court decision within five months, the appeals court on Tuesday rejected Alabama’s request for a stay. That action means that in accord with the federal judge’s rulings same-sex marriages must begin in Alabama this Monday, Feb. 9. 

The Alabama attorney general has asked the Supreme Court to intervene and issue a stay. If the high court does so, it would mean that same-sex couples in Alabama would not be able to start getting married this Monday. One the other hand, if the high court refuses to stay the lower court rulings, Alabama would become the 37th state in the United States to allow same-sex marriages.

The high court’s action on the stay request is being closely watched as a possible indicator of how a majority of justices might rule in the consolidated cases now pending at the Supreme Court.  

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