The New Jersey state Supreme Court is weighing whether to uphold a lower court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage in a case that the New York Supreme Court has refused to hear.
The ruling from the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals comes just days after the justices ruled that a lower federal court had erroneously granted a temporary restraining order preventing the couples from marrying.
The case involves a man and a woman who live together in a Massachusetts suburb.
A federal judge in New Jersey had said in January that the state could not recognize the marriages.
The federal court’s decision on the same-dissolution case, which has been appealed to the full appeals court, could be a blow to same-year marriage proponents.
The justices could decide by a 5-4 vote whether to allow the couples to wed, overturn the lower court decision and issue a stay on the federal judge’s ruling.
A hearing on the stay is scheduled for Nov. 10.
The decision is a blow for the nation’s highest court, where the justices have twice refused to take up gay marriage.
It is the second time in the past six months that the high court has denied a petition to take on gay marriage cases.
Last month, the justices declined to take part in a similar case challenging the validity of a Pennsylvania gay marriage ban.
The same-day court’s ruling could be especially significant for the states of Washington, Oregon and Colorado, which are all in the path of a gay rights victory.
The appeals court said in its opinion that the lower federal district court judge’s interpretation of the federal Marriage Protection Act, which applies to all states, was “so broad and broad-ranging that it encompasses all of marriage.”
The ruling could also be a boon to same sex couples in other states, including Alaska and Hawaii.
The high court in the early 1990s ruled that same-gender couples could not be denied a marriage license in Alaska, but reversed that decision.