The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to block the District of Columbia's gay marriage law, freeing the city to issue its first marriage licenses to same-sex couples the following day.
Opponents of gay marriage in the nation's capital had asked Chief Justice John Roberts to stop the city from issuing the licenses on Wednesday while they appealed. They argued that D.C. voters should have been allowed to vote on the issue. Local courts have rejected the opponents' arguments.
"It has been the practice of the court to defer to the decisions of the courts of the District of Columbia on matters of exclusively local concern," said Roberts, writing for the court.
He also pointed out that Congress could have voted to stop the city government from putting the law into effect and didn't.
Opponents have also asked city courts to allow a voter referendum on gay marriage, and they "will have the right to challenge any adverse decision ... in this court at the appropriate time," Roberts said.
The city has said Wednesday probably will be the first day same-sex couples can apply for marriage licenses. Couples still will have to wait three full business days for their licenses before exchanging vows.
Same-sex marriages are also legal in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Iowa, Connecticut and Vermont.
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