|The Supreme Court may rule any day now on the constitutionality of state marriage bans, and its decision could cause legal chaos in numerous states.
If the court, which will give a ruling covering four separate cases, strikes down all bans, then same-sex marriage will be legal across the country.
But if the court decides that states are permitted to ban same-sex unions, then 20 of the 36 states that currently permit same-sex marriage — including Colorado — will be in a legal gray area.
States that have fought to keep bans that were previously struck down by federal courts would be able to resume enforcing them. That would likely include Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Montana, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
But in Colorado, as in California, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Virginia, top officials didn’t contest the rulings that permitted same-sex marriages to begin. Injunctions prevent bans from being enforced, and typically the attorney general or governor would have to appeal that injunction in order to undo it. So if those people support same-sex marriage and therefore don’t take that step, those marriages might continue.
Colorado’s attorney general, Cynthia Coffman, is a Republican but supports same-sex marriage. (She has previously said that she believes that voters need to be involved in the process, but that she would extend legal protections for same-sex marriages.)
However, there could be confusion as county clerks, who actually issue marriage licenses, might be able to argue that they have the right to deny licenses to same-sex couples.
Of course, some couples aren’t waiting for the Supreme Court’s ruling to hire wedding planners; book venues; search for their wedding dresses; and choose their old, new, borrowed and blue items (American attitudes toward marriage have changed dramatically in recent years, but 84% of brides are still incorporating those four traditional items into their wedding-day attire) . As USA Today highlighted June 24, even some couples whose states don’t currently allow same-sex marriage are optimistic enough to be making their wedding arrangements.
It just remains to be seen whether those unions will be legally recognized or not.