IDAHO, NORTH CAROLINA LEGAL OBSTACLES FALL
Legal obstacles to gay marriage have fallen in Idaho and North Carolina.
The U.S. Supreme Court issued an order Friday that appears to have cleared the way for gay marriages in conservative Idaho. Gay rights supporters are cheering in Boise as state officials were trying to determine when weddings might take place. At least one county clerk in Idaho began issuing same-sex marriage licenses.
Meanwhile, a federal judge in North Carolina has struck down the state's gay marriage ban, opening the way for the first same-sex weddings in the state to begin immediately. The ruling follows Monday's announcement by the U.S. Supreme Court that it would not hear any appeals of cases before the 4th Circuit Court, which has jurisdiction over North Carolina.
GOING TO THE CHAPEL
Gay couples in Las Vegas cheered at the marriage license bureau when anticipation became reality, and the county clerk began granting same-sex partners the right to wed Thursday evening. To boost awareness, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority placed a full page ad in USA Today on Friday featuring two groom cake-toppers with a view of Vegas in the background.
WAITING ON CINCINNATI
There also is growing anticipation for a ruling by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Cincinnati.
A three-judge panel heard arguments two months ago on challenges to gay marriage bans in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee, the biggest hearing of its kind on the issue.
Its eventual ruling could help determine when or even whether the Supreme Court takes up the issue. There has been no indication of a timetable by the 6th Circuit.
The marriage confusion tripped up even someone who should have known better.
Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy mistakenly blocked the start of same-sex marriage in Nevada in an order that confused state officials and disappointed couples. Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg confirmed the mix-up Thursday, saying Kennedy's order a day earlier was an error that the justice corrected with a second order several hours later.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco declared bans on same-sex marriage in Idaho and Nevada illegal Tuesday. Idaho quickly asked the Supreme Court for a delay, but Nevada planned to allow same-sex weddings to proceed. The trouble arose because Idaho's request to the court included a document from the appeals court that listed case numbers for both states.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says it shouldn't be up to the Supreme Court to decide whether states allow gay marriage. The Republican governor, widely viewed as a contender for president in 2016, says he believes states should decide the issue. Christie opposes same-sex marriage but dropped his administration's legal challenge last year. He says he's been upholding the law allowing gay marriage in his state since then. Christie had avoided commenting on the court's decision at a campaign stop this week.
MOVEMENT IN OTHER STATES
— Alaska: A federal judge heard arguments Friday on the first gay marriage ban passed in the U.S., but he didn't issue a ruling. Gay couples have sued to overturn the ban. The state says the question of whether to define marriage to include gay couples should be decided by citizens, not the courts. Voters approved the ban in 1998.
— Arizona: A federal judge has said a 9th Circuit ruling apparently "controls the outcome" of Arizona's gay marriage ban. The state is covered by the appellate court that struck down bans in Idaho and Nevada. Marriages have not begun in Arizona.
— Arkansas: The state Supreme Court refused to delay a challenge to Arkansas' gay marriage ban, rejecting the state attorney general who had asked the court to put the case on hold.
— Indiana: The University of Notre Dame told employees its granting health care and other benefits to same-sex spouses after the Supreme Court's ruling. The Catholic university's move came Wednesday, a day after the state attorney general said marriage licenses must be issued to gay couples.
— South Carolina: The state Supreme Court ordered lower state courts to refrain from issuing same-sex marriage licenses until a federal judge decides whether the state constitution's ban on the unions is legal.
— West Virginia: Gay couples have begun receiving marriage licenses after the state's attorney general dropped his fight opposing same-sex unions.
SO, HOW MANY STATES ALLOW GAY MARRIAGE?
It's a little complicated. Before the Supreme Court's denial, there were 19 states that firmly allowed gay marriage.
The Supreme Court's action Monday added five states, plus six others that were affected because they were in the same federal circuits that appealed. That would make 30 states allowing gay marriage, but some of them are still trying to block it or haven't yet instituted mechanisms for weddings.
Court rulings in favour of gay marriage in Idaho, Nevada and North Carolina, effectively bring the total to 32, but marriages have yet to take place in Idaho or North Carolina.
So, how many states allow gay marriage? About 30, give or take.