Court ducks same-sex marriage decision in surprise move

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The U.S. Supreme Court declined Monday to revisit same-sex marriage, announcing that it would not take up any of seven cases on the issue that were pending before the court.

The decision was a shock to court watchers who expected the justices to tackle the hot button issue this fall.

In declining to take the cases involving Indiana, Utah, Virginia, Oklahoma and Wisconsin, the court is effectively allowing lower court rulings against state bans on gay marriage to stand.

That sparked celebrations among supporters of gay marraige, who argued that in opting against consider the cases the court has struck a blow for same-sex marriage equality.

Sen. Mark WarnerMark WarnerOvernight Healthcare: How GOP could help fix ObamaCare | Cures bill in jeopardy | Senators unveil Medicare reforms Senators unveil bipartisan Medicare reforms Start-ups push to ease taxes on stock options MORE (D-Va.), who is expected to win reelection this year in Virginia, tweeted “#VirginiaIsForLovers” in response to the decision.

There has been a sizeable shift on gay marriage over the last half-decade, with President Obama and other Democrats coming out in favor of gay marriage. 

A relative few Republican House members and Senators back gay marriage, but most Republicans no longer play up the issue.

Utah Sen. Mike LeeMike LeeDonald Trump's Mormon PR problem Trump's big worry isn't rigged elections, it's GOP establishment GOP senators avoid Trump questions on rigged election MORE (R) said he was disappointed that the Supreme Court won’t hear his state’s appeal.

“Nothing in the Constitution forbids a state from retaining the traditional definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman,” he said in a statement. "The Supreme Court owes it to the people of those states, whose democratic choices are being invalidated, to review the question soon and reaffirm that states do have that right.”

Dozens of states on both sides of the issue have asked the court to weigh in on the issue, after bans on same-sex marriage were overturned in recent weeks in Wisconsin and Indiana. 

Fifteen states that allow gay marriage filed a brief last month asking the high court to review cases from Oklahoma, Utah and Virginia, whose bans were recently thrown out by lower courts. Massachusetts, the first state to legalize same-sex marriage, spearheaded this group’s request.

Meanwhile, seventeen other states that have same-sex marriage bans in place also asked the justices to review the Oklahoma and Utah cases.

Lower courts reversed the bans in Oklahoma, Utah and Virginia this summer, though a few rulings have been put on hold pending appeal. Some states have appealed directly to the Supreme Court.

Last year, the Supreme Court struck down central provisions of the Defense of Marriage Act, the federal law that banned federal benefits for gay couples. 

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has said the court would not duck the issue in the future. 

“I think the court will not do what they did in the old days when they continually ducked the issue of miscegenation,” she said in a July interview. “If a case is properly before the court, they will take it.”

This story was updated at 3:20 p.m.

Ben Kamisar contributed to this story.