A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit issued a 2 to 1 decision Wednesday, upholding a district court decision that Utah’s marriage ban for same-sex couples is unconstitutional. The decision in Herbert v. Kitchen is the first from a federal appeals court on a state marriage ban since the U.S. Supreme Court decision in U.S. v. Windsor. The ruling puts the Utah case closest to arriving at the U.S. Supreme Court. The majority stayed its decision pending an appeal to the high court.
Although the Tenth Circuit stayed its order finding a marriage ban for same-sex couples unconstitutional, Boulder County, Colorado, began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples Wednesday. The Tenth Circuit includes Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah, and Wyoming. Two lesbian couples were able to marry before the clerk’s office closed for the day, according to the Boulder Camera. But Colorado’s Republican Attorney General John Suthers issued a statement saying the marriages are invalid.
For the 15th time since the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in U.S. v. Windsor, a federal district court judge on Wednesday ruled that a state marriage ban for same-sex couples is unconstitutional. Judge Richard Young’s ruling on Indiana’s ban involved three consolidated lawsuits – Baskin v. Bogan, Fujii v. Pence, and Lee v. Pence. Young ruled that Indiana’s ban violates the U.S. Constitution’s guarantees to equal protection and due process. “In time, Americans will look at the marriage of couples such as Plaintiffs and refer to it simply as a marriage—not a same-sex marriage,” wrote Young. These couples, when gender and sexual orientation are taken away, are in all respects like the family down the street. The Constitution demands that we treat them as such.”
Indiana’s Republican Attorney General Greg Zoeller filed an emergency motion seeking an immediate stay of Judge Richard Young’s ruling, striking down the state ban on same-sex couples marrying. But Young’s order enforced his decision immediately and, according to the Indianapolis Star, “hundreds” of same-sex couples rushed to courthouses within minutes after the decision was released around noon. The first same-sex couple to be married, said the Star, appears to be Craig Bowen and Jake Miller of Indianapolis. “There was a party atmosphere inside the clerk's office on Wednesday afternoon, where hundreds of people waited in line for a marriage license as [the Marion County clerk] kept the doors open until 8 p.m. to accommodate the crush.” Marion County alone issued 219 marriage licenses and conducted more than 150 marriage ceremonies before 10 p.m. Wednesday.
Today is the one-year anniversary of the landmark U.S. v. Windsor decision of the U.S. Supreme Court, striking down as unconstitutional the key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). It is also the tenth anniversary of the landmark Lawrence v. Texas decision, striking down laws prohibiting same-sex adults from having intimate relations. Both decisions have had enormous impact on the LGBT civil rights movement and yet both relied on just one vote.
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