Appeals Court: States Can’t Ban Gay Marriage
A federal appeals court ruled Wednesday that states must allow gay couples to marry, finding the Constitution protects same-sex relationships and putting a remarkable legal winning streak across the country one step closer to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The three-judge panel in Denver ruled 2-1 that states cannot deprive people of the fundamental right to marry simply because they want to be wedded to someone of the same sex.
The judges added they don’t want to brand as intolerant those who oppose gay marriage, but said there is no reasonable objection to the practice.
"It is wholly illogical to believe that state recognition of love and commitment of same-sex couples will alter the most intimate and personal decisions of opposite-sex couples," they wrote, addressing arguments that the ruling could undermine traditional marriage.
The decision by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel upheld a lower court ruling that struck down Utah’s gay marriage ban. However, the panel immediately put Wednesday’s ruling on hold so it could be appealed, either to the entire 10th Circuit or directly to the nation’s highest court.
"All I can say is that we are thrilled," said Kody Partridge, one of the plaintiffs. She and her wife, Laurie Wood, were working in the garden when they heard the news.
"This is such as historic thing, not just for Utah but for Laurie and me" and plaintiffs across the country, Partridge said. "This is a big day."
The decision gives increased momentum to a legal cause that already has compiled an impressive record in the lower courts after the Supreme Court last year struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act. Since then, 16 federal judges have issued rulings siding with gay marriage advocates.
The latest of those rulings was in Indiana, where a federal judge on Wednesday struck down that state’s same-sex marriage ban in a decision that immediately allowed gay couples to wed. The Indiana and Utah decisions came just one day ahead of the one-year anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision that struck down part of a federal anti-gay marriage law.
Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, said Utah’s legal victory was sweeter because of where it originated - a conservative, deeply religious state in the heart of the mountain west.
"What is so powerful here is that we have the first federal appellate court and ... it’s a case coming out of Utah affirming in the strongest, clearest, boldest terms that the Constitution guarantees the freedom to marry and equal protection for all Americans and all means all, including gay couples," he said.
John Mejia, legal director of the ACLU of Utah, also lauded the decision, calling it a "huge boost" to the gay marriage movement.
Gay marriage opponents, meanwhile, have vowed to continue their fight. Along with the Catholic Church, several other major denominations remain adamant in opposing same-sex marriage.