That’s not quite right—the headline makes it sound as if the Supreme Court ruled and then people could go ahead and get married. It would be more accurate to say that the ruling “cleared the way for the restoration of gay marriage in California.”
This ruling was especially tricky, because it was so technical. Basically, the court said that, since the government decided not to appeal the court of appeals’s decision, the case should not have continued on to the Ninth Circuit. A private group had no right to come in and argue the anti-marriage case.
SCOTUSblog has a full explainer on this, so I’ll be brief. In short: A lot has to happen before marriage becomes legal again in California, even after the ruling. The court of appeals has to lift its stay on gay marriages that they imposed on the district court’s judgment (they’ve now said it will be lifted in 25 days from the ruling). And it has to be decided by the state government (which is gay marriage-friendly) that the District Court decision prohibiting officials to enforce the heterosexual-marriage only restriction of Proposition 8—that was the big Prop 8 trial overseen by Judge Vaughn Walker—applies to everyone, not just the two couples who sued. Even now, it might not be over.
As the Los Angeles Times so capably explained:
Opponents of gay marriage have suggested they might go back to court to try to prevent Brown from enforcing the injunction beyond the couples named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
District judges generally are supposed to apply injunctions narrowly to the parties before them unless they are deciding a class action lawsuit or unless a broad order is the only way to protect the plaintiffs who sued. The Proposition 8 challenge was not filed as a class action.
Gay rights lawyers say they are confident any effort to limit Walker’s decision will fail.
Did readers in other states need to know all that? Not necessarily. But they did need to know that the Supreme Court didn’t give Californians the immediate right to marry, it only cleared the way for marriages to happen. It might seem like a small difference … unless you’re a gay Californian who is hoping to wed.