What you need to know today about gay marriage

AP News
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Posted: Oct 08, 2014 8:12 PM
What you need to know today about gay marriage

Weddings, court rulings and confusion are defining a week that started with the U.S. Supreme Court denying appeals from five states seeking to retain their bans on same-sex marriage. Some of the 11 states affected by the denial went ahead with weddings; others are proceeding toward marriage deliberately. Others are putting up a fight.

Another domino fell Tuesday when a federal appeals court in the West overturned marriage bans in Nevada and Idaho, triggering more confusion about when weddings can begin there.

Here's a rundown of the most recent developments:

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JUSTICE KENNEDY STEPS IN

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy on Wednesday temporarily blocked the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that declared gay marriage legal in Idaho, and later issued an order clarifying that the weddings could begin in Nevada.

Kennedy's order followed an emergency request from Idaho for a stay on the appeals court ruling. A group fighting to keep Nevada's ban later asked the top court to put gay weddings on hold there too.

The delay on gay marriage in Idaho could last just a few days. Kennedy's order requested a response from the plaintiffs in Idaho's gay marriage lawsuit by the end of Thursday.

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WAITING IN VEGAS

Las Vegas, the land of wedding chapels, is ready for gay marriage. But it must wait at least a while longer.

The city's Marriage License Bureau was expected to start issuing licenses for same-sex couples Wednesday. However, Kennedy's order interrupted that plan and left clerks awaiting word on how to proceed.

Clark County Clerk Diana Alba said at a late-afternoon news conference that she would refrain from issuing any gay marriage licenses for the time being.

Las Vegas has been gearing up for same-sex weddings, with clerks preparing gender-neutral licenses, chapel photographers practicing shooting two brides wearing white gowns, and ordained Elvises ready to officiate.

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WEDDING BELLS IN OTHER STATES?

The effect of the Supreme Court's decision not to hear gay marriage cases this week went beyond the five states asking to retain their bans.

On Wednesday, a Kansas judge ordered the state's most populous county to issue marriage licenses to gay couples. South Carolina's attorney general asked that state's Supreme Court to stop a judge from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. And a federal judge in North Carolina lifted temporary delays in two cases challenging the state's same-sex marriage ban.

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KEEPING THE BRAKES APPLIED

In some states affected by Monday's Supreme Court action, officials are not yet instituting same-sex marriage, saying they think there's still a gray area. Wyoming's Republican governor said the state will defend its constitution's definition of marriage as permissible only between a man and woman.

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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.

"They (the judges) appreciate that it's a very significant case, and they want to get a decision out," says Pierre Bergeron, a Cincinnati attorney with deep experience in federal appellate cases. "On the other hand, it's also a very complicated case ... and they want to make sure they get it right. So that points to the direction that it may take longer."

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SO, HOW MANY STATES ALLOW GAY MARRIAGE?

Like many other things around same-sex marriage, there's not a good answer. 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.

Idaho and Nevada would have made 32, but Justice Kennedy temporarily blocked the Idaho ruling.

So, how many states allow gay marriage? About 30, give or take a few.