The one appeal the high court accepted was from Edith "Edie" Windsor, who was forced to assume an estate tax bill much larger than heterosexual married couples would have to pay. Because her decades-long partner was a woman, the federal government did not recognize their same-sex marriage in legal terms, even though their home state of New York did. Windsor's spouse, Thea Spyer, died several years ago.
The decision by the high court to put the other pending sex-sex marriage appeals aside was for mostly procedural reasons, and not necessarily a reflection on the merits of each individual appeal. The petitions raised similar issues raised in the Windsor case, and those plaintiffs, like Windsor herself, will now benefit from the high court's ruling.
Also rejected for review by the high court was a challenge to Nevada's law defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman. The state has an existing domestic-partnership law giving gay and lesbian couples nearly all the rights, responsibilities and benefits as opposite-sex couples, without calling it marriage.
A federal judge had ruled the voter referendum constitutional, and now an appeals court in San Francisco will take up the legal challenge.
And an appeal from Arizona was also dismissed. At issue was whether a state that prohibits same-sex marriage could also deny same-sex couples shared health care benefits when one of the partners is as a state employee. A federal court had tossed out that law as unconstitutional.
By rejecting any further consideration of the same-sex marriage issue for now, the justices seem prepared to let the political branches at the state and federal level handle implementation. Further legal challenges are a certainty, but may not percolate back up the U.S. Supreme Court for many months, if not years.