Same-sex marriage rights have taken a leap forward in the United States, where the Supreme Court has opted to let stand lower court rulings overturning marriage bans in five states. A majority of U.S. states either currently allow gay couples to wed - or are expected to shortly.
Joy and excitement on display at this courthouse in Arlington, Virginia, which now can issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples for the first time.
Diane Ullius and Rhonda Buckner wed in Canada, and look forward to having their marriage recognized in their home state.
“We are thrilled! We are so excited," said Buckner.
We feel vindicated. People have been working for a long time for places to recognize that equality is equality. Fair is fair," said Ullius.
The states of Virginia, Indiana, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, and Utah will join 19 others that already recognize gay marriage.
This comes after Monday’s Supreme Court decision not to review federal appellate court rulings that all struck down same-sex marriage bans. That unanimity made the high court less likely to weigh in, according to Georgetown University law professor Nan Hunter, who spoke via Skype.
“It is not unheard of for the [Supreme] Court to say, ‘Fine, so far everyone is agreeing without involving us, so we do not need to get involved'," said Hunter.
Gay rights advocates are claiming a partial victory. Darlene Nipper of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force:
“The ruling means the country is going in the right direction, and it also means we have more work to do. Probably 60 percent of the American public is going to be living in a state where the freedom to marry is [legal] where they live. But that is 60 percent, not 100 percent," said Nipper.
Social conservative groups decried what they see as the further erosion of traditional marriage and the Supreme Court’s refusal, so far, to take a stand on the legality of same-sex marriage. Chris Gacek is with the Family Research Council.
“It is going to be one of the most enormous black marks in the history of the court. If they want to redefine marriage and impose a cultural revolution on America, then they need to belly up to the bar and do it [act decisively]," said Gacek.
Many legal experts believe nationwide same-sex marriage rights are all but inevitable.
“I think the writing is on the wall. It is just a matter of time before gay couples can marry anywhere in the United States," said Hunter.
Public opinion polls have shown a gradual increase in support for same-sex marriage, with most recent surveys showing a slim majority in favor.