Yesterday the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit invalidated gay marriage bans in the states of Idaho and Nevada. Idaho then filed an emergency plea to the Supreme Court, asking for that ruling to be put on hold while the state files an appeal. Today Justice Anthony Kennedy ordered that the 9th Circuit's ruling be stayed "pending further order of the undersigned [Kennedy] or of the Court." He also ordered a response to the state's plea from the lawyers for the victorious same-sex couples.
What does this mean? Kennedy's actions may signal the Court's interest in eventually hearing this case on appeal. Although the Court did just turn down seven gay marriage petitions originating from five other states, the 9th Circuit's ruling is notable for subjecting the Idaho and Nevada gay marriage bans to "heightened scrutiny," one of the more aggressive forms of judicial review. Other federal appellate courts, by contrast, have adopted what's called rational-basis review, which is the most deferential towards state officials. This methodological split among the federal circuits could prompt the Supreme Court to weigh in on the merits of a gay marriage ban.