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Supreme Court Turns Away Same-Sex Marriage Cases

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[CBS News] [CBS News]

The Supreme Court on Monday turned away seven same-sex marriage cases in five states, refusing for now to take up the basic question of whether same-sex couples have a right to marriage.

While the decision is a setback for the gay rights movement's goal of achieving marriage equality nationwide, it does allow the lower court rulings in those five states to stand -- all in favor of marriage equality. That means same-sex couples in Indiana, Wisconsin, Utah, Oklahoma, and Virginia will be able to get married.

The justices may have been hesitant to take up a same-sex marriage case, since a federal appeals court has yet to rule against marriage equality. The court typically takes up an issue after there is a split in appellate court rulings. As Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg recently said at the University of Minnesota Law School, "When all the courts of appeals are in agreement there is no need for us to rush to step in."

Ginsburg did say the question of same-sex marriage will come before the court "sooner or later." She suggested that time could come after a ruling is handed down by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, which could give the gay rights movement its first major setback on the issue of marriage.

In August, a three-judge panel from the Sixth Circuit heard arguments over the same-sex marriage bans in Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee. Two of the three judges seemed inclined to uphold the bans.

"Now if that court should disagree with the others," Ginsburg said, "then there will be some urgency in the Court taking the case."

Gay rights advocates, for the most part, say the urgency is already there.

"Every day that we cannot have the freedom to marry and full respect across the country is a day that millions of people are really enduring a direct injury, indignity and injustice," Evan Wolfson, president of the group Freedom to Marry,told CBS News. "There's no reason to prolong that discrimination. The country is ready for the freedom to marry, and the case is there in front of the court. It's time to bring the country to national resolution."

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