We're still likely months away from a final ruling from the Supreme Court on same-sex marriage nationwide only two short years after the landmark decision striking down the Defense of Marriage Act in United States v. Windsor. But today, by ruling against a stay of a federal judge's ruling that struck down Alabama's same-sex marriage ban, the court essentially tipped its hand and now will have to rule in favor of striking down all bans by the end of this term. As Slate points out, you only have to look as far as Justice Thomas's dissent, in which he was only joined by Justice Scalia (the other conservatives, Alito and Roberts, were in the majority rejecting the stay 7-2).
Thomas argues that stays have been granted in other, similar situations, and this one should be no different. But, obviously it is different now that a vast majority of states and all but one federal appellate circuit court have struck down their same-sex marriage bans, and he doesn't like the implications.
Yet rather than treat like applicants alike, the Court looks the other way as yet another Federal District Judge casts aside state laws without making any effort to preserve the status quo pending the Court’s resolution of a constitutional question it left open in United States v. Windsor. This acquiescence may well be seen as a signal of the Court’s intended resolution of that question. This is not the proper way to discharge our Article III responsibilities. And, it is indecorous for this Court to pretend that it is.
What's happened is a shortcut that is allowing gay marriage to move forward today in Alabama, essentially without fear that it's ever going to be banned again.
As Slate's Mark Joseph Stern explains, "The justices will rule on the constitutionality of state-level marriage bans this summer, so they might as well put any federal court rulings on hold until they’ve had a chance to say the last word. After all, if the court ultimately ruled against marriage equality, the Alabama district court’s order would be effectively reversed, and those gay couples who wed in the coming months would find their unions trapped in legal limbo."
So, there you have it. Get ready for gay marriage in Mississippi and Texas come June. Brace yourselves.