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SALT LAKE CITY — The U.S. Supreme Court accepted 11 new cases Thursday but took no action on same-sex marriage cases.
The justices met this week in a closed-door conference to consider cases for the court's term starting next Monday. Their next scheduled conference is Oct. 10. They hold two or three meetings a month during the term to sift cases.
As the court takes the bench, it will issue a new list of orders, mostly denials, and indicate before the end of the day whether it is rescheduling the same-sex marriage cases for another look, according to longtime Supreme Court reporter Lyle Denniston at SCOTUSblog.com.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg told law students in Minnesota last week that a case pending in the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals would probably play a role in the high court's timing. The 6th Circuit covers Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee.
Ginsburg said "there will be some urgency" if that appeals court allows same-sex marriage bans to stand, according to the Associated Press. She said if the appeals panel falls in line with other rulings, there is "no need for us to rush."
Nearly 40 lower court rulings nationwide have overturned state laws banning same-sex marriage.
The high court has recently followed a pattern of looking at cases twice before deciding whether to hear them. Eight of the cases that it accepted Thursday were filed in 2013; the other three this year. It takes four of the nine justices to agree to take a case.
Five states, including Utah, have filed petitions with the court in same-sex marriage cases.
The Utah Attorney General's Office and lawyers for the plaintiffs call the state's case an ideal vehicle for the high court to decide the issue.
Typically, the court grants, denies or defers the petitions it receives. The multiple same-sex marriage cases, however, create a unique situation and several options. The justices could take one or more cases, combine cases, wait for more appellate decisions or let appellate rulings stand.
The Supreme Court is familiar with the Utah case, having intervened twice to temporarily block lower court rulings that would have immediately allowed gay and lesbian marriages in the state. It also issued a hold in Virginia. Those stays remain in place while the justices decide what to do.
"Those orders suggest, if they don’t actually prove, that the court is preserving either a chance for the issue to be explored further in lower courts without thousands of new same-sex marriages occurring, or a chance for the justices themselves to weigh in on the issue before that happens," Denniston wrote.