The Supreme Court on Monday effectively legalized same-sex marriages in five states without so much as a whisper.
On the first day of its fall term, the court announced it was rejecting appeals of lower-court rulings that had struck down same-sex-marriage bans in Indiana, Utah, Oklahoma, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
The move allows those decisions to stand even as the justices punted, for the moment, on considering the broader question of whether to recognize gay marriage as a constitutional right.
With the addition of those states, same-sex nuptials are now legal in 30 states and the District of Columbia, and the court's ruling could clear the way for same-sex marriage across the country as the fast-moving gay rights movement gains momentum. The move was seen as a surprise, as many court-watchers expected the justices to at least consider the state appeals.
The votes of only four justices are needed to grant certiorari in a case, meaning six of the Supreme Court's nine members chose not to revisit a landmark decision from 2013, when the court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act and separately cleared the way for gay marriages in California. Lower appellate courts had unanimously interpreted that decision broadly in striking down bans in the five states, and the justices essentially chose not to correct them on Monday.