(Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court declined on Monday to decide once and for all whether states can ban gay marriage, a surprising move that will allow gay men and women to get married in five additional states, with more likely to follow quickly.
On the first day of its new term, the high court without comment rejected appeals in cases involving five states – Virginia, Oklahoma, Utah, Wisconsin and Indiana – that had prohibited gay marriage, leaving intact lower-court rulings striking down those bans.
As a result, the number of states permitting gay marriage would jump from 19 to 24, likely soon to be followed by six more states that are bound by the regional federal appeals court rulings that had struck down other bans. That would leave another 20 states that prohibit same-sex marriage.
But the move by the nine justices to sidestep the contentious issue means there will be no imminent national ruling on the matter, with litigation likely to continue in states with bans.