The chances that Nebraska would become the thirty-seventh state where same-sex marriages are legal were interrupted Thursday when a federal appeals court put on hold a federal judge’s ruling against the state’s ban. That case will now be linked with three others already pending at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.
Under the Circuit Court’s order delaying the Nebraska case (Waters v. Ricketts), that case will be heard by a three-judge panel in Omaha on May 12, along with cases from Arkansas (Jernigan v. McDaniel), Missouri (Lawson v. Kelly) and South Dakota (Rosenbrahn v. Daugaard). In each of those cases, a federal judge has found a state ban to be unconstitutional.
The Eighth Circuit Court is one of four federal appeals courts who have not expressed a view on same-sex marriage in the wake of the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in United States v. Windsor, striking down a part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act
The others, each of which has an appeal pending on the question, are the First, Fifth and Eleventh Circuit Courts. The Fifth Circuit Court has held a hearing on the question, and could rule at any time.
The chances that Alabama would become another state where such marriages could occur have been become mired in deepening confusion, with competing results in the Alahama Supreme Court and in a federal trial court in Mobile, and with the state’s judiciary ethics commission now being asked to provide some guidance to state judges faced with conflicting rulings.
At this point, no one can predict when the situation in Alabama will be sorted out — if it will be any time before the Supreme Court rules on the constitutional question later in the current Term. The Justices are scheduled to hold a hearing on April 28 on four pending cases.
Althouth the Justices have the issue under review, nothing prevents lower courts from proceeding to rule on it themselves in the meantime.