The U.S. Supreme Court, a day after deciding two major cases on gay marriage, declined on Thursday to take up two more cases on the issue.
The cases concerned Nevada's ban on same-sex marriage, and an Arizona law that denies state benefits to "domestic partners."
The court declined to take the cases without comment. Its action means an appeals court ruling striking down the Arizona law stays in effect, while litigation over the Nevada law will continue.
On Wednesday the justices struck down a key part of a federal law, the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), that denied federal benefits to same-sex married couples.
The justices avoided deciding the constitutionality of a California law enacted in 2008, called Proposition 8, that banned gay marriage. The justices found that supporters of the law did not have standing to appeal a federal district court ruling that struck it down.
The Arizona case concerns a law that limits health benefits to employees' spouses and dependants, thereby excluding domestic partners, including those in same-sex relationships. Gay marriage is not recognized in Arizona.
Prior to the law being enacted via a ballot initiative in November 2008, the state had for several months allowed same-sex domestic partners to receive health benefits.
Gay and lesbian state employees sued before the new law was due to go into effect in January 2011, saying it violated their equal protection rights under the U.S. Constitution.
A federal district court issued a preliminary injunction preventing the law from going in effect. The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that ruling in September 2011, prompting the state's appeal to the Supreme Court.
In the other case, supporters of Nevada's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage asked the Supreme Court to rule definitively that states could limit the definition of marriage to opposite-sex couples.
The case arose when eight same-sex couples either tried to get married in Nevada or asked the state to recognize their out-of-state marriages. A federal court dismissed their claim. The case is pending before an appeals court, but the supporters of the ban asked the Supreme Court to take an early look at the issue.
The Arizona case is Brewer v. Diaz, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 12-33. The Nevada case is Coalition for the Protection of Marriage v. Sevick, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 12-689. (Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Howard Goller, Vicki Allen and John Wallace)
© 2015 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.