Judge Criticizes Supreme Court, Strikes Down Arizona Marriage Ban

Marriage equality comes to the Grand Canyon state. 

Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

On Friday, U.S. District Judge John Sedwick struck down Arizona’s gay marriage ban, holding that the law violated the equal protection guaranteed by the 14th Amendment. He refused to grant a stay, meaning marriages can begin in the state immediately.

The ruling was entirely inevitable: Arizona falls within the 9th Circuit, where marriage equality recently became law. Still, Sedwick’s decision is pretty amazing—a terse, 4-page order that throws some serious shade at the Supreme Court. Normally, a judge issuing such a consequential ruling based on a circuit court decision would put his own decision on hold; the judgment of the circuit court, after all, could be reviewed and reversed by the Supreme Court. But Sedwick refused to stay his decision. Instead, he noted the Supreme Court’s recent refusal to review a group of major gay rights cases, and then proclaimed: “It is…clear…that the High Court will turn a deaf ear on any request for relief from the Ninth Circuit’s decision.”

Read this as begrudging resignation or sly provocation; either way, it’s rather astonishing. Sedwick is essentially calling the Supreme Court’s bluff, daring it to prove him wrong and break its unfathomable silence on gay marriage and work up the chutzpah to just rule already. It probably won’t work: Just last week, the justices—with no dissenters—allowed gay marriages to proceed in Idaho, another 9th Circuit state. That laissez-faire gesture suggests that the high court is done meddling with the circuit. Still, Sedwick deserves some plaudits for insinuating in a judicial opinion what the rest of us have been grumbling about for nearly 2 weeks: The Supreme Court just isn’t doing its job.

Sedwick’s ruling comes on the heels of the Obama administration’s announcement that the federal government will now recognize same-sex marriages performed in the seven states that, thanks to the courts, received marriage equality this month. Presumably, the administration will soon add Arizona to that ever-expanding list. Let the Grand Canyon honeymoons commence.