WASHINGTON - Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy on Wednesday allowed same-sex marriage to begin in Nevada, clarifying that an earlier order temporarily blocking gay unions applies only to Idaho.
Kennedy said in a brief order that he was lifting the hold he imposed five hours earlier Wednesday on same-sex weddings in Nevada. He said his order would continue to block gay marriage in Idaho, where state officials have asked for the delay. Nevada officials did not make a similar request.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco declared gay marriage legal in Idaho and Nevada on Tuesday. A day earlier, the Supreme Court let similar rulings from three other appeals courts become final and effectively raised to 30 the number of states where same-sex couples can marry, or soon will be able to do so.
In response to the 9th Circuit decision, Idaho officials filed an emergency request with the court about 90 minutes before they said that state and county officials would otherwise have been required to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Kennedy's initial order was issued around 9:50 a.m. EDT, 10 minutes before the deadline cited by Idaho officials. The order initially included Nevada, where officials had been planning to start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples later Wednesday.
The delay in Idaho could last just a few days. Kennedy's order requested a response from the plaintiffs involved in Idaho's gay marriage lawsuit by the end of day Thursday.
The full court almost certainly would weigh in to extend the delay much beyond the weekend. That has been the justices' practice in other cases in which a single justice initially blocked a ruling from taking effect.
Having just allowed other appellate rulings to take effect without a full review by the Supreme Court, it would be surprising if the justices were to put the 9th circuit ruling on hold for any length of time.
The high court's action Monday suggested that only an appellate ruling upholding a gay marriage ban would prompt the court to step in.