DENVER (AP) — 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.
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.
added they don't want to brand as intolerant those who oppose gay
marriage, but they said there is no reasonable objection to the
"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," the judges 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. It becomes law in the six
states covered by the court: Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma,
Utah and Wyoming. However, gay marriages won't be happening in the near
future because the panel immediately put its ruling on hold pending an
attorney general's office said in a statement it will file a petition
with the Supreme Court seeking a review of the panel's ruling. It also
left open the possibility of requesting a review from the full panel of
10th Circuit judges.
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," the statement said.
Partridge, meanwhile, said she and her wife, Laurie Wood, were thrilled
about the ruling.
"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."
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 struck down that
state's same-sex marriage ban in a decision Wednesday 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 striking down part of a federal anti-gay marriage law.
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.
opponents, meanwhile, have vowed to continue their fight.
can, by judicial fiat, declare same-sex 'marriage' legal, they will
never be able to make it right," said Tony Perkins, president of the
Family Research Council Perkins. "The courts, for all their power, can't
overturn natural law."
The Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said in a statement on its website
Wednesday that the church maintains marriage should be between a man and
a woman but believes "all people should be treated with respect."
Gary Herbert in a statement said he was disappointed by the decision and
believes states should determine their own laws regarding same-sex
marriage. He said he hopes the U.S. Supreme Court will rule on the issue
to provide clarity.
In his dissent,
Justice Paul J. Kelly Jr. said the 10th Circuit was overstepping its
authority and that states should be able to decide who can marry.
resist the temptation to become philosopher-kings, imposing our views
under the guise of the Fourteenth Amendment," he wrote.
More than 1,000
Utah same-sex couples wed in December after the initial ruling in the
case, before the Supreme Court issued a stay. Along with the Utah case,
the 10th Circuit panel considered a challenge to the Oklahoma ban. It
did not immediately issue a decision in that case Wednesday.
plaintiff Sharon Baldwin said moments after the Utah ruling that she is
optimistic because the two cases are so similar.
for the plaintiffs in Utah," Baldwin said. "We think this is wonderful
news, and we're excited to see our ruling coming soon."
Though the Utah
and Oklahoma cases have been closely watched, it is unclear if one of
them will be the first to reach the Supreme Court. The high court could
choose from cases moving through five other federal appellate courts,
and wouldn't consider a case until next year at the earliest.
representing Utah and Oklahoma argued voters have the right to define
marriage in their states. Gay rights lawyers countered that they cannot
do so in a way that deprives gay people of their fundamental rights.
ruling comes 42 years after the Supreme Court refused to hear a case of
two men who were refused a marriage license in Minnesota, finding there
was no legal issue for the justices to consider, and just 10 years after
11 states voted to outlaw gay marriage.
marriage is legal in 19 states and the District of Columbia. Recent
polls show a majority of Americans support it.