New high court look at gay marriage? Now legal in 36 states

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Supreme Court has quietly engineered a dramatic increase in the number of states that allow gay and lesbian couples to wed. The increase also has raised the chances the justices soon will step in to settle the legal debate.

The justices are weighing whether to hear a case that could lead to same-sex unions in all 50 states. With the addition of Florida this week, 36 states now allow same-sex marriage. That’s nearly twice as many as just three months ago.

The increased number may give comfort to a court that does not like to be too far ahead of the country.

The growth has come from the high court’s refusal in October to review lower-court rulings in favor of same-sex marriage or to block them from taking effect.