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Federal Appeals Court nullifies state laws forbidding same-sex marriage

This news story was published on June 25, 2014.
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DENVER – A federal appeals court has dealt a blow to states who don’t want same-sex couples getting married in their backyards.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit held today that the Fourteenth Amendment protects the fundamental right to marry, establish a family, raise children, and enjoy the full protection of a state’s marital laws. The court ruled that a state may not deny the issuance of a marriage license to two persons, or refuse to recognize their marriage, based solely upon the sex of the persons in the marriage union.

Earlier this year, the Utah governor’s office said that the state would not recognize same-sex marriages as the state continued to appeal a legal ruling that had overturned the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. Last year, in United States v. Windsor, the Supreme Court struck down much of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, paving the way for protection for same-sex couple who had already been married.

gay-marriageUtah legislators and—by legislature-initiated action—the citizens of the State of Utah amended their statutes and state constitution in 2004 to ensure that the State “will not recognize, enforce, or give legal effect to any law” that provides “substantially equivalent” benefits to a marriage between two persons of the same sex as are allowed for two persons of the opposite sex.  Plaintiffs challenged the constitutionality of these laws and the district court agreed with their position. The federal appeals court agreed with the district court ruling.

The LA Times reported that Utah officials will fight the ruling all the way to the Supreme Court.

“Although the Court’s 2-1 split decision does not favor the State, we are pleased that the ruling has been issued and takes us one step closer to reaching certainty and finality for all Utahns on such an important issue with a decision from the highest court,” Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes told the Times, via email. “For that to happen, the Utah Attorney General’s Office intends to file a Petition for Writ of Certiorari to the United States Supreme Court.”


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