By Lawrence Hurley
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court, which is in the midst of deciding whether to take up the issue of gay marriage, on Monday declined to take an early look at a challenge to Louisiana’s state ban.
The court took no action on four other pending cases concerning gay marriage bans in Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee, but could act on those cases as soon as later this week.
The decision not to hear the Louisiana case was not unexpected as gay rights advocates had sought to skip the regular judicial process by seeking Supreme Court review before the case had been decided by an appeals court. Gay rights advocates representing the Louisiana plaintiffs said in court papers there is a “pressing need” to resolve the issue once and for all.
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, which has jurisdiction over the state of Louisiana, heard arguments in the case on Friday and has not yet ruled. The same court is also weighing challenges to bans in Texas and Mississippi.
In the Louisiana case, a federal district court judge upheld the state ban in September 2014.
If the court were to take up one or more of the gay marriage cases, it would then issue a ruling that would determine whether 14 remaining state bans will be struck down. Gay marriage is currently legal in 36 states.
The court in October decided not to take up the issue, but a November ruling by a regional federal appeals court based in Cincinnati upheld gay marriage bans in four states.
That ruling was the first by one of the nation's regional appeals courts that did not strike down state gay marriage bans as a violation of the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of equal treatment under the law.
The case is Robicheaux v. George, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 14-596.
(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)