WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court has decided not to interfere with the District of Columbia's Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Act, which goes into effect tomorrow.
The act expands the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples.
Opponents had hoped the high court would overturn the measure, but for now, gays and lesbians in the District of Columbia will be free to file for marriage licenses.
Chief Justice John Roberts, who wrote a three-page order Tuesday, instead left the door open for opponents, reminding them a separate ballot initiative would allow voters their say in the matter.
Applicants must wait three full days for the license to be issued, so no marriages will be conducted this week.
The $35 application fee will be waived if couples have already filed for domestic partnership; however, the license fee is $10 and will not be waived.
The U.S. Supreme Court had been asked this week to halt same-sex marriages in the District of Columbia.
The new law allowing gay marriage was approved in December. Hundreds of couples are planning to apply for licenses to get married, supporters say.
Opponents filed paperwork on Monday with Chief Justice Roberts, leader of the conservative majority on the Supreme Court. The plaintiffs argued that the voters, not the D.C. City Council, should be allowed to decide whether to allow same-sex marriage.
On Friday, the opponents had just lost an appeal to the District of Columbia Appeals Court, forcing the last-minute filing with the Supreme Court.
City officials have said that couples must wait three full business days after applying for marriage licenses before they can get married.
In related news, Catholic Charities in Washington – which has campaigned against same-sex marriage – has decided to change its health-care coverage effective today that will drop spousal benefits for all newlyweds and new hires. Critics say this is designed to deny equal treatment to same-sex couples who work for the agency, which is part of the Archdiocese of Washington.