John M. Becker

Ginsburg: For Clues on Marriage Timing, Watch 6th Circuit

Filed By John M. Becker | September 17, 2014 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, gay marriage, marriage discrimination, marriage equality, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, same-sex marriage, SCOTUS, Supreme Court

ruth_bader_ginsburg.jpgLike much of the nation, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been talking a lot lately about marriage equality. She made headlines last month when she told the Associated Press that the court will not "[duck] the issue" if a marriage equality case comes properly before the court and predicted that would happen by June 2016 at the latest.

And now she's done it again, telling an audience in Minnesota last night to watch the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for clues as to how soon the Supreme Court might take up the issue. Ginsburg's remarks seem to confirm what many of us have been speculating: that a conflict between circuits on the constitutionality of state-level marriage bans will compel the court to intervene and resolve the question.

The Associated Press reports:

People seeking clues about how soon the Supreme Court might weigh in on states' gay marriage bans should pay close attention to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg told a Minnesota audience Tuesday.

Ginsburg said cases pending before the circuit covering Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee would probably play a role in the high court's timing. She said "there will be some urgency" if that appeals court allows same-sex marriage bans to stand. Such a decision would run contrary to a legal trend favoring gay marriage and force the Supreme Court to step in sooner, she predicted.

She said if the appeals panel falls in line with other rulings there is "no need for us to rush."

Ginsburg didn't get into the merits of any particular case or any state's gay marriage ban, but she marveled at the "remarkable" shift in public perception of same-sex marriage that she attributes to gays and lesbians being more open about their relationships. Same-sex couples can legally wed in 19 states and the District of Columbia. Bans that have been overturned in some other states continue to make their way through the courts.

"Having people close to us who say who they are -- that made the attitude change in this country," Ginsburg said at the University of Minnesota Law School.

The Supreme Court's first opportunity to consider whether or not to hear marriage equality cases in its upcoming term will come on Monday, September 29, at its first conference after the summer recess.

UPDATE and NOTE: Many of my colleagues in the media are reading way, waaaaay too much into Justice Ginsburg's latest comments. She did not say that the Court won't take up marriage equality without a circuit split. What she said is that without one, the attitude on the Court is that there's "no need for [them] to rush." While these comments are still quite noteworthy, they're also a lot more nuanced than many people are reporting.

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