The U.S. Supreme Court rejected calls for a nationwide ruling on same-sex marriage, a rebuff that lets gays marry in as many as 11 new states and leaves legal uncertainty elsewhere.
The denial today of seven pending appeals defied predictions. Advocates on both sides had urged the justices to resolve the issue following a wave of lower court rulings that the Constitution guarantees same-sex marriage rights.
The rejection lets three federal appeals decisions take effect, legalizing same-sex marriage in Utah, Oklahoma, Virginia, Wisconsin and Indiana. Six other states —Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas, West Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina — will likely follow because they fall under the jurisdiction of those appellate courts.
Those additions will bring the number of gay-marriage states to 30, plus the District of Columbia.
In other parts of the country, same-sex couples will have to wait for additional court rulings. Federal appeals courts based in San Francisco and Cincinnati have heard arguments on the issue and could rule any time.
The Supreme Court hinted at support for gay marriage last year when it invalidated part of a federal law that denied benefits to legally married same-sex partners. That ruling led to dozens of victories for gay-marriage advocates in the lower courts, while building expectations that the Supreme Court would soon take the final step.
The Supreme Court accepts a case for review only if at least four of the nine justices vote to hear it.