Gay Marriage Legal Challenges: Where Things Stand
State same-sex marriage bans have been falling around the country since June 2013, when the nation's highest court ordered the federal government to recognize state-sanctioned gay marriages. The remaining state bans all face legal challenges to overturn them.
Gay and lesbian couples can now marry in 19 states and the District of Columbia, with Oregon and Pennsylvania being the latest to join the list. The others are: Massachusetts, California, Connecticut, Iowa, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Maine, Maryland, Washington, Delaware, Hawaii, Minnesota, New Jersey, Rhode Island, New Mexico and Illinois.
Same-sex couples cannot wed in the rest of the states.
A federal appeals court ruled Friday that Oklahoma's ban is unconstitutional, but the judges put the ruling on hold so it could be appealed. The decision comes three weeks after the same panel of judges reached the same conclusion on Utah's same-sex marriage ban.
A total of 14 gay marriage cases are pending in state and federal appeals courts, with judges reviewing a wave of pro-gay marriage rulings that have come in the past year. Those rulings all are on hold pending appellate court decisions.
Here's a look at where things stand with other legal challenges across the country:
- ARKANSAS: A state judge in Arkansas' largest county struck down the state's gay marriage ban, saying the state has "no rational reason" for preventing gay couples from marrying. The state Supreme Court brought the marriages to a halt and is weighing state officials' appeal.
- COLORADO: A state judge struck down the state's gay marriage ban on July 9, but put the ruling on hold pending the outcome of the appeal. Despite that order, several county clerks began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. More than 200 gay couples have wed in Boulder, Denver and Pueblo counties. The judge who issued the ruling has refused to stop that action. Colorado's Republican attorney general John Struthers is appealing to the state Supreme Court. He says he knows it's only a matter of time until gay marriage is legal in his state, but that he'll continue to defend his state's ban.
- FLORIDA: A judge ruled this week that gay and lesbian couples can marry in Florida's most gay-friendly county, siding with same-sex couples in the Florida Keys who challenged a voter-approved ban as discriminatory. But an immediate state appeal stopped couples from getting married.
- IDAHO: State officials announced they will appeal a decision from a federal judge overturning the state's same-sex marriage ban. The appeal is with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which is scheduled to hear arguments on Sept. 8.
- INDIANA: A federal judge struck down the state's ban on same-sex marriage June 25 in a ruling that allowed gay couples to wed before it was put on stay. That ruling is on appeal before the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago. In a separate case, that same federal appeals court recently ordered Indiana to acknowledge the out-of-state marriage of a lesbian couple, one of whom is terminally ill, on an emergency basis. That ruling applies just to one couple - not to others.
- KENTUCKY: A federal judge overturned the state's ban on gay marriage on June 30. The state is appealing to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. The same judge previously ordered Kentucky to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. Attorney general Jack Conway said he would not defend the state's law, but the state has hired outside attorneys to handle the case and is appealing that to the same federal appeals court. The 6th Circuit will hear arguments in both cases, along with gay marriage cases in Ohio, Michigan, and Tennessee, on Aug. 6 in a single session.
- MICHIGAN: The 6th Circuit is reviewing Michigan's same-sex marriage ban that was overturned by a federal judge in March following a rare trial that mostly focused on the impact of same-sex parenting on children.
- NEVADA: Eight gay couples are challenging Nevada's voter-approved 2002 ban that was upheld by a federal judge in 2012. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco has scheduled arguments for Sept. 8. Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto is refusing to defend the ban.
- OHIO: The 6th Circuit appeals court is reviewing two gay marriage cases from Ohio. The first involves recognizing gay marriages on death certificates, and the second involves an order for Ohio to recognize all out-of-state marriages.
- TENNESSEE: A federal judge ordered the state to recognize three same-sex couples' marriages while their lawsuit against the state works through the courts. Tennessee officials are appealing the preliminary injunction to the 6th Circuit.
- TEXAS: A federal judge declared the state's ban unconstitutional, issuing a preliminary injunction. The state is appealing to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court in New Orleans.
- UTAH, OKLAHOMA: The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver ruled on June 25 that Utah must allow gay couples to marry, finding the Constitution protects same-sex relationships. The court made the same ruling on Oklahoma's ban Friday. Utah and Oklahoma voters overwhelmingly passed the bans in 2004.
- WISCONSIN: A federal judge in Madison struck down the state's ban in June, leading to more than 500 same-sex marriages in the state before the judge put her ruling on hold a week later pending an appeal. The Wisconsin attorney general is appealing the ruling to 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, which has not yet set a date for arguments.
- VIRGINIA: The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond heard arguments in May about Virginia's overturned ban and is expected to rule soon. Virginia's attorney general, Mark Herring, is one of seven in the country who has refused to defend a state gay marriage ban. A county clerk who was sued in Virginia is defending the ban.
- ELSEWHERE: Other states with court cases demanding recognition of gay marriage are: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, West Virginia and Wyoming. Most lawsuits challenge same-sex marriage bans or ask states to recognize gay marriages done in other states.
This article is part of our "Gay Marriage" series. Want to read more?
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