Denver federal appeals court rules Utah’s ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional
DENVER — A three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver ruled Wednesday a state cannot prevent gay and lesbian people from getting married, ruling 2-1 that Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage violates the U.S. Constitution.
The panel, in upholding a lower court ruling that struck down the ban in December, said it was “wholly illogical to believe that state recognition of the love and commitment between same-sex couples will alter the most intimate and personal decisions of opposite-sex couples.”
The ruling, the first of its kind by a federal appeals court, was immediately put on hold as the case is appealed to the full 10th Circuit or heads directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The court heard the case in April. Three couples sued the state’s Amendment 3, which defines marriage as only between a man and a woman, and was passed in 2004.
In December last year, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Shelby overturned Amendment 3, ruling it violated gay and lesbian couples’ rights under the U.S. Constitution, reported KSTU-TV in Salt Lake.
For 17 days gay couples flooded county clerk’s offices for marriage licenses before the 10th Circuit took up the case.
In arguments before the 10th Circuit Court, Utah said maintaining a traditional definition of marriage was the will of voters and it would preserve a view that “fathers and mothers are important.”
The court disagreed saying “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. 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 federal appeals court oversees five states in the region, including Colorado. Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico and Wyoming are the others.
The court also heard an appeals case for gay marriage in Oklahoma and a ruling on that case could be close. These were the first time a same-sex marriage cases heard by an appellate court since the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act last year.
Also Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Richard Young in Indiana said gay marriage was unconstitutional because it violated guarantees of equal protection and due process. Gay marriages can happen immediately in the state.
Since DOMA was struck down, 16 federal judges have ruled on the side of gay marriage advocates. Gay marriage is legal in 19 states and the District of Columbia.
In February of this year, nine same-sex couples filed a lawsuit in state court challenging Amendment 2 arguing that civil unions were a second-class level of citizenship for gays and lesbians.