U.S. Supreme Court

Gay-marriage opponents cite SCOTUS summary dismissal in 1972; is it still good law?


In 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed an appeal seeking to overturn Minnesota’s gay-marriage law in Baker v. Nelson with a one-line summary dismissal. “The appeal is dismissed for want of a substantial federal question,” the court said.

A Tennessee judge cited the precedent in upholding Tennessee’s refusal to recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere, the Washington Post reports. And the case was discussed during oral arguments on gay-marriage restrictions earlier this month before the Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The U.S. Supreme Court did not cite Baker v. Nelson when it struck down a federal law that bans federal benefits to same-sex married couples, or when it left intact a decision allowing gay marriage in California.

“So does that mean the justices found Baker is a relic, or that it was simply unnecessary to its opinions in the two cases, and remains binding on lower courts?” asked the Post. Most judges who have considered gay-marriage laws have found the 1972 case is no longer good law. A contrary decision in the 6th Circuit could put the issue before the Supreme Court.

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