The idea that the Constitution protects the equal right of same-sex couples to marry has made astonishingly fast progress in courts around the country. Between states that legalized same-sex marriage by statute, (as Minnesota did) or by referendum, and states covered by the string of federal court decisions, same-sex marriage is now legal in 32 states.
But the U.S. Supreme Court has so far not taken an appeal in any of those cases that could have allowed them to rule on the question that would be binding on all 50 states. In September, when she spoke at the University of Minnesota Law School, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg suggested that since all of the federal appellate courts that had decided cases on the question had ruled on the same side (in favor of the legality of same-sex marriage), the Supreme Court would probably not accept a case until they got some disagreement from the lower courts.
This morning that happened. The Sixth District Court of Appeals, which covers Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee, ruled by a 2-1 margin that states do have the authority to ban same-sex marriage. That creates the conflict among appellate courts that Ginsburg referenced and will likely lead to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the question.
(Just to clarify, states like Minnesota that legalized same-sex marriage by law or by state constitutional amendment, would not be in play in such a case. But if the high court comes down the same way as the Sixth Districts court did, the country could continue to be a checkerboard of states that allow same-sex marriage and states that ban it. If the Supremes rule the way the other appellate courts have, it could have the effect of legalizing same-sex marriage in all 50 states.)