The lawsuit over whether gay and lesbian couples can wed in Louisiana will not get the fast track to the U.S. Supreme Court that both sides of the case wanted.
The high court on Monday announced it had denied a request — made initially by the plaintiffs and then seconded by the state — to skip over the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which heard arguments in the case last week but has yet to issue a ruling.
A three-judge panel for the 5th Circuit is considering whether to overturn a September ruling by U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman in New Orleans upholding Louisiana’s ban on marriages between same-sex couples.
It’s unusual, though not unprecedented, for the Supreme Court to take a case before a circuit court has ruled on it.
Attorneys in the Louisiana lawsuit were hopeful the high court would make an exception in this case because it would have given the justices a relatively straightforward vehicle to deal with both questions involved in lawsuits pending around the country: whether same-sex couples can marry, and whether states can refuse to recognize same-sex marriages performed legally elsewhere.
In any case, the Supreme Court is still widely expected to take up the issue soon. It is considering whether to review a recent decision from the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, which upheld bans on same-sex nuptials in four states. Other circuit courts have struck down bans in various other states as unconstitutional, creating a split among the circuits.
If the high court does take up that case, it could render an opinion this year.