Same-Sex Marriage Is Coming To The Carolinas

Oct 6, 2014

Credit Washington University School of Law

Now that there's no longer a hold on a federal appeals court decision striking down Virginia's same-sex marriage ban, federal judges in the Carolinas will have to follow that precedent. That means it's just a matter of time until bans in the Carolinas are struck down.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in July that Virginia's same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional. That's the federal appeals court for the region that includes the Virginias, Maryland, and the Carolinas. 

"In those states, gay marriage is legal or will be legal very soon," says UNC Charlotte Political Science Professor John Szmer.

That's because federal judges in those states have to follow the precedent their federal appeals court sets – it's one step below the Supreme Court.

Judges in the Carolinas had put their same-sex marriage cases on hold because the Supreme Court had signaled it may review the Virginia case. Monday, the Supreme Court announced it would not.

"And so by not reviewing it," Szmer says, "the 4th Circuit rule stands, at least in our five states."

Before same-sex marriage can begin in the Carolinas, judges have to explicitly strike down those states' bans. At this point, that's a formality.