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Denver federal appeals court rules Utah’s ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional

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The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.

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.

PDF: 10th Circuit ruling on Utah gay marriage

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.

Same-sex marriage is still banned in Colorado under Amendment 43.  However, in 2013 the state legislature approved civil unions for same-sex couples.

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.


  • Craig Smith

    Call it whatever you want, it’s not marriage. Yes they love each other and deserve the same benefits as anyone else but it’s still not marriage. Sorry, cant change the definition of a word…..Hey, lets start calling felines dogs!

    • Kitty Willis

      Marriage (also called matrimony or wedlock) is a socially or ritually recognized union or legal contract between spouses that establishes rights and obligations between them, between them and their children, and between them and their in-laws.[1] The definition of marriage varies according to different cultures, but it is principally an institution in which interpersonal relationships, usually intimate and sexual, are acknowledged. In some cultures, marriage is recommended or considered to be compulsory before pursuing any sexual activity. When defined broadly, marriage is considered a cultural universal.

      • Craig Smith

        Whatever makes you feel good Kitty. We all know it’s not marriage though. (Or at least all of us who were brought up with morals and values!)….

      • Joel

        Kitty, While your Wikipedia definition appears to suit your purposes, it is not a definitive source and overtly PC. That is not to say that do not I fully support the idea of homosexual people to be able to enter into a “socially or ritually recognized union” in my mind, it is simply not a “marriage”

    • Bob Smith

      Definitions of words change all the time! It use to be that marriage was only between a man and a woman from the same race. But we now know that those “values and moral” beliefs were wrong. People like you make me sick, using your “morals” to control how other people live there lives. Does it really hurt you to have someone else live differently from you.

    • Kara

      I choose to say you’re marriage, if you are married Craig is invalid. Since we are making up things now…

  • Kae Mechiso

    What’s next? inter species marriage, and those polygamist cults their rights should be upheld also. This is what lawyers mean by a slippery slope. Down hill all the way from here.

  • annpirie

    Marriage is going to become an institution of the past. Years from now, heterosexuals will not be marrying, as is already happening. Choosing to live with one will not need to be legally binding as a marriage. There are wills to take care of what needs to be taken care.

  • Test

    Why only two people? There is biological precedent to “marriage” once you break the “one of each” criteria the whole thing falls apart. Two, three, 14, whatever the courts must now recognize any desired arrangement for marriage needs to be legally supported. The Democrats already tax you more for the luxury of being married, why bother? What a joke.

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