Supreme Court Declines to Hear Box v. Henderson | Law & Crime

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Even with Three Trump-Appointed Justices on the Bench, SCOTUS Declines to Roll Back Marriage Equality

The Supreme Court of the United States denied certiorari Monday in a case that threatened to chip away at marriage equality. The Court’s denial will disallow Indiana’s effort to discriminate against same-sex couples, and will continue to preserve the meaning of Obergefell v. Hodges.

Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill (R) took the position in Box v. Henderson that same-sex spouses should not have the same rights to be listed on state-issued birth certificates as opposite-sex spouses. The case arose as the result of several lesbian couples who conceived via artificial insemination; Indiana refused to list birth mothers’ wives on their children’s official birth certificates, but regularly listed birth mothers’ husbands on birth certificates without additional requirement.

The same issue had been raised in response to Arkansas’ identical practice in Pavan v. Smith—a 2017 Supreme Court case in which the Court also sided with the same-sex parents. A few months after Pavan, a three-judge panel of the Seventh Circuit heard oral arguments in Box v. Henderson. However, the Seventh Circuit waited nearly three years–in time for SCOTUS to include two Trump-appointees—before handing down a unanimous ruling in favor of the same-sex parents in Box v. Henderson.

By the time Indiana appealed its loss at the Seventh Circuit, SCOTUS would include Justice Amy Coney Barrett, and many court-watchers wondered whether the change to the bench would result in the Court’s eroding its landmark decision in  Obergefell v. Hodges to allow the discrimination Indiana sought to conduct.

The Supreme Court’s denial of certiorari in Box v. Henderson means the Seventh Circuit’s decision stands. Advocates for LGBTQ+ rights have praised the Court’s denial not only for its practical implications, but also for its signal that the Court will uphold the Obergefell precedent.

[Image via Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images]

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Elura is a columnist and trial analyst for Law & Crime. Elura is also a former civil prosecutor for NYC's Administration for Children's Services, the CEO of Lawyer Up, and the author of How To Talk To Your Lawyer and the Legalese-to-English series. Follow Elura on Twitter @elurananos