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The Sixth Circuit of federal appeals court ruled today that the bans on same-sex marriage in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee are constitutional. Today’s 2-1 decision means people in these states won’t be able to get gay-married just yet. Most importantly the Sixth Circuit’s ruling means there is now a “circuit split” on whether or not same-sex couples are allowed to be married under the Constitution. Think Progress explains a circuit split happens when “federal appeals courts disagree on the same question of law” so this is reason enough to get the Supreme Court to rule on the issue.
Circuit Judge Jeffrey Sutton cast the deciding vote saying that the democratic process, not the judiciary was the proper route towards civil rights.
When the courts do not let the people resolve new social issues like this one, they perpetuate the idea that the heroes in these change events are judges and lawyers. Better in this instance, we think, to allow change through the customary political processes, in which the people, gay and straight alike, become the heroes of their own stories by meeting each other not as adversaries in a court system but as fellow citizens seeking to resolve a new social issue in a fair-minded way.
In other words, the circuit judges are saying that other federal rulings have been too presumptuous in their interpretation of the Windsor SCOTUS ruling — just because SCOTUS ruled the federal government must respect marriage equality where states have passed it, that doesn’t mean it’s ruled that states can’t outlaw marriage equality. So ultimately, today’s decision means SCOTUS will have to decide if same-sex couples have the right to marry in all 50 states.