Utah appeals court strikes down same-sex marriage ban in major ruling

Gay marriage stock photo

In a first, a U.S. appeals court has struck down a state ban on same-sex marriage, creating greater political and legal momentum for the Supreme Court to decide whether gays and lesbians have a constitutional right to wed.

It happened on Wednesday in Utah, where a panel ruled 2-1 against the prohibition, saying that any couple, regardless of sexual orientation, has the right to marry.

“We hold 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 majority opinion said.

“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,” the court said.

The state could now ask the full 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to review the matter or proceed directly to the Supreme Court.

Separately on Wednesday, a federal judge in Indiana struck down that state’s same-sex marriage ban. The next step there could be to an appeals panel.

The legal, social, and political conversation over expanding the definition of marriage that is playing out in Utah is by no means unique, merely another thread of an issue that is being confronted in courtrooms and living rooms nationwide.

Same-sex marriage is legal in the District of Columbia and 19 states: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. Massachusetts was the first to make it legal, in 2004.

A recent Williams Institute survey found among large cities in Utah, the Salt Lake City metropolitan area had the nation’s highest rate of same-sex couples raising children, at 26%. Memphis, Virginia Beach, Detroit; and San Antonio were not far behind. Among states, Mississippi led the list, also at 26%.

When it was passed in 2004, Utah’s Prop 3, which banned same-sex marriage, had 66% voter support. But that has since fallen. A Salt Lake City Tribune poll has found residents there equally divided on whether same-sex couples should be allowed to get state-issued marriage licenses.

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11 comments

  • Chucky

    Well it is only a matter of time before NC has to give equal rights to all of it’s citizens. :)

    • chilla duman

      technically it is equal, you may marry the opposite gender, if I turn around and try to marry the same ill be shot down like them

  • Steve

    The difference between Utah and NC is that Utah passed a law and NC amended their Constitution. You can’t call the Constitution unconstitutional. And the Supreme Court already said they’re not going to meddle in state’s business in regards to marriage laws. So unless that happens the majority of people in NC can actually have their voices heard and respected.

    • Chucky

      I have to disagree with you there. The state’s constitution was amended but that does not mean that the state’s constitution could not be in violation of the federal constitution, and therefore, unconstitutional.

      • Steve

        This is true but there would have to be a separate lawsuit in this federal circuit and it would have to be overturned here. The case in Utah can not be used as precedent since it is from another jurisdiction but can be mentioned. That is basically the only way it will happen because the Supreme Court has repeatedly said it is going to leave the marriage issue up to the states.

    • Tom

      State laws cannot over step the boundaries of federal laws. The job of our Federal courts are to make sure that any and all state laws do not violate the US Constitution. If interpreted that way, any state law or amendment can be ruled that it violates the US Constitution (unconstitutional). The aspect of the Constitution that is currently up for interpretation is the 14th Amendment, aka the Equal Protection Amendment. The 14th Amendment says: nor shall any State “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws”. The courts are now interpreting this as saying that you cannot deny anyone the right to lawfully marry, regardless of race or sexual orientation.

  • Frank

    And the abuse of power by UNELECTED Federal judges continues…an abuse our Founding Fathers could not have foreseen as elected official are supposed to prevent appointed ones from over-reach in their powers

    • Doug Eisner

      Exactly why the Federal judiciary is not only “unelected” but also appointed for life: so that the momentary popular passions and prejudices do not enter into consideration of the judges. The “election” of the people failed to remove the prohibition in Mississippi’s constitution (unconstitutional since 1967) just a couple years ago. Basic constitutional rights are not subject to vote. Did you and all the others clamor inch against the “unelected judges” ever go to high school?

  • Mark

    Striking down unconstitutional laws is all the rage right now, and it’s coming to a state near you real soon. Hahahahaha! Hate on thumpers.

  • Frank

    The shining light of zealous liberalism (I am enlightened therefore agree or be portrayed as “narrow-minded”) has spoken…to include the highly educational use of “Haha” and “thumpers”.

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