The Supreme Court signaled Monday that it is in no hurry to decide two important questions it sidestepped earlier this term: whether a business owner’s religious beliefs can justify refusing wedding services to same-sex couples, and how courts should evaluate extreme partisan gerrymandering.
The justices sent back the case of a Washington state florist who was found to have violated the state’s anti-discrimination law, as well as a ruling that North Carolina’s redistricting plan is unconstitutional. They said lower courts should reconsider those decisions by applying the rather gauzy guidelines the court issued on those subjects earlier this month.
It was like punting after a punt — raising questions about the careful path the court is treading this term.
One of the biggest: whether the delay is related to the plans of Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, a pivotal vote whose future on the bench is a matter of intense speculation. Kennedy, who will turn 82 on July 23, may decide to retire, and the court is sometimes reluctant to take controversial cases when the ideologically divided justices don’t know who will decide them next term.