Weeks after the Supreme Court removed the ban on gay marriage across the United States legalizing it in all states, gay couples are still facing legal issues, as some county clerks across many states are refusing to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples citing religious reasons. This has become an issue across many of the Southern states and is sparking a debate over the legality of this.
Four Kentucky couples are suing a county clerk after she not only turned away two same sex couples, but two heterosexual couples. The clerk is refusing to issue any marriage licenses after the Supreme Court ruling, claiming that her religious beliefs kept her from issuing them to any couple. However, she is not the only clerk denying marriage licenses. Similar instances have been seen in Texas and Tennessee. Clerks are not only facing lawsuits from a number of couples, but face serious legal issues. Under national laws, clerks are not allowed to refuse marriage licenses based on religious beliefs as it violates the first amendment. Many are calling for stricter penalties to end these actions and new laws to protect same sex couples from being denied marriage licenses. However, clerks are arguing for their actions, citing it is their right to turn down a same sex couple.
The lawsuits against clerks who refused marriage licenses have resulted in some couples later having the licenses being given to them. Despite this, other couples are still facing problems receiving them and legal battles still continue.
The issue of same-sex marriage has been raging on ever since the first application for a marriage license was denied by a clerk in Hennepin County, Minnesota because the applicants were both male. However, this week the Supreme Court chose to take a neutral attitude towards the issue of gay marriage, allowing the rulings of lower courts to stand.
The states immediately affected by this decision are Indiana, Wisconsin, Virginia, Utah, and Oklahoma, which had appealed the lifting of the state bans on same-sex marriages by federal appeal courts. Six other states that are awaiting the ruling of the federal appeals court for the same issue may very well get the same treatment from the Supreme Court.
As of the time of this decision, there are 19 states plus the District of Columbia in which same-sex marriage is legalized. This decision could jumpstart the movement to make same-sex marriages recognized in other states, bringing the total number of states that recognize gay marriage to 30. Nine other states, Idaho, Nevada, Montana, Alaska, Arizona, Michigan, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Ohio, are also in line for denials by federal appeals court, which means that there could soon be 39 states in which same-sex marriage is legal or in which the state ban lifted.
This decision is considered a victory for the gay rights movement, but some advocates criticize the Supreme Court for staying on the sidelines when a definitive ruling would have made the process of nationalizing the legality of same-sex marriages much faster.