DENVER -- For the second time, a federal appeals court in Denver has ruled states cannot prevent gay people from getting married.
Coming on the heels of its decision last month that Utah's ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, a three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals made the same conclusion in an Oklahoma case Friday.
Lower courts had struck down voter-approved bans in those states, and the rulings by the 10th Circuit are the first at the appellate level since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act in June 2013.
RELATED: 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling
The ruling referred to Court's previous decision in the Utah case; the new element in the Oklahoma ruling is related to standing, with the Court holding that the plaintiffs challenging Oklahoma's failure to recognize their out-of-state same-sex marriages lacked standing to do so.
"While the opinion thus does not grant equal marriage rights to those married out of state, it hints strongly that failure to recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages would be found unconstitutional if challenged by a plaintiff with standing,"said Nancy Leong, a constitutional law professor at the University of Denver's Sturm College of Law.
"Although it would not be appropriate to definitively opine on the matter, it is fair to surmise that the court’s decision in [the Utah same-sex marriage case] casts serious doubt on the continuing vitality of" not recognizing out-of-state marriages."
The Utah and Oklahoma cases are expected to be appealed to the Supreme Court, and gay marriage in both states will stay on hold until the appeals process plays out.
Since the DOMA ruling, more than 20 courts have ruled gay marriage is unconstitutional, with rulings in 17 states.
After the Utah ruling, Boulder County began issuing same-sex marriage licenses. Colorado Attorney General John Suthers went to court to get the county to stop but was denied.
That's when Denver and Pueblo counties began issuing licenses. Suthers and Gov. John Hickenlooper want the Colorado Supreme Court to rule whether county clerks can issue licenses.