US Supreme Court to decide gay marriage issue this term

Big Stories in the US

gay rights advocate Vin Testa In this June 26, 2013, file photo, gay rights advocate Vin Testa waves a rainbow flag in front of the Supreme Court in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

The Supreme Court said it will decide whether same-sex couples nationwide have a right to marry under the Constitution. The justices said Friday they will review an appellate ruling that upheld bans on same-sex unions in four states. The case will be argued in April and a decision is expected by late June.

Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee are among the 14 states where gay and lesbian couples are not allowed to marry, and the appeals before the court come from gay and lesbian plaintiffs from those states. The federal appeals court that oversees the four states upheld their same-sex marriage bans in November, reversing pro-gay rights rulings from those states’ federal judges.

Even so, the number of states that permit same-sex marriage has nearly doubled in three months as a result of federal and state court rulings. The justices’ decision to turn away same-sex marriage appeals in October allowed some of those rulings to take effect. Florida last week became the 36th state to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Meanwhile, judges in Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri, South Dakota and Texas have struck down anti-gay marriage laws, but they remain in effect pending appeals. In Missouri, same-sex couples can marry in St. Louis and Kansas City only.

Louisiana is the only other state that has seen its gay marriage ban upheld by a federal judge. There have been no rulings on lawsuits in Alabama, Georgia, Nebraska and North Dakota.

This story was compiled with information from the Associated Press.