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An Appeals Court Just Struck Down Utah's Same-Sex Marriage Ban. What Else is Happening?

As states overturn gay marriage bans, the "blue state thing" is turning less partisan.
An Appeals Court Just Struck Down Utah's Same-Sex Marriage Ban. What Else is Happening?
Image: Courtesy of Pew Research Center

In a closely watched court case, a divided three-judge panel ruled yesterday that Utah's ban of gay marriage is unconstitutional, paving the way to a possible Supreme Court battle that may end America's same-sex marriage debate.

Since CT identified evangelicals' favorite same-sex marriage laws and asked whether Jesus would bake a cake for a gay wedding in Arizona (depends who you ask), a tidal wave of activity has legalized the weddings in 19 states plus the District of Columbia.

The landscape is changing: Two months ago, experts proclaimed the legalization of gay marriage "a blue state thing," but the ruling on Utah's same-sex marriage law and similar appeals in Oklahoma and Texas are pushing the issue to red states.

A day before the one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court's decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act, which had barred same-sex marriages from federal recognition, a divided three-judge panel of the 10th Circuit Court ruled 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."

Utah's court battle has been closely watched, especially after the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to temporarily restore the state's ban in January. CT noted that this could be the legal battle both sides of the debate have been waiting for. The question before the judges was whether the states have the power to bar same-sex marriage within their borders.

Two appellate judges said states don't have that right, while a third judge dissented, arguing that "requiring every state to recognize same-gender unions—contrary to the views of its electorate and representatives—turns the notion of a limited national government on its head."

The decision was stayed, pending an appeal to the Supreme Court. A U.S. District Court also ruled Indiana's ban on gay marriage unconstitutional, a ruling the state's attorney general's office quickly appealed.

Earlier this month, seven same-sex couples filed a federal lawsuit against North Dakota's same-sex marriage ban, making it the last state in the union to have its same-sex marriage ban challenged in court.

That same day, federal judge Barbara Crabb struck down a gay marriage ban in Wisconsin, declaring it unconstitutional.

This isn't the first time Judge Crabb's rulings made national headlines. CT covered her other high profile controversial rulings when she declared the National Day of Prayer and the clergy housing allowance unconstitutional. An appeals court unanimously threw out her NDOP ruling and stayed the housing allowance decision pending appeal.

In May, a pair of rulings invalidated Oregon and Pennsylvania's laws against same-sex marriage. Both rulings went into effect after the state's governor and attorney general chose not to defend or appeal the ruling.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert spoke out against governors choosing not to defend their state marriage laws, saying, "For alleged officials, governors or attorney generals, to pick and choose which laws we'll enforce, I think, is a tragedy and is the next step to anarchy."

New Jersey and New Mexico have both affirmed the right of same-sex couples to marry since last June's Supreme Court decision. Every state law banning same-sex marriage has been challenged. (An interactive map tracking which states allow same-sex marriage can be found here.)

Image: Courtesy of Pew Research Center

The Pew Research Center recently released a report on where Christian churches and other religions stand on gay marriage. The Evangelical Lutheran Church and United Church of Christ, among others, already sanction the practice in some way; the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) moved toward their ranks with a vote last week to allow clergy to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies. The Southern Baptist Convention and Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod are among those who prohibit the practice.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, says there is no "Third Way." He said, "A church will either believe and teach that same-sex behaviors and relationships are sinful, or it will affirm them."

CT covered World Vision's change with their employee policy (Why We're Hiring Gay Christians in Same-Sex Marriages). Within two days of the announcement, after a backlash of complaints and cancelled sponsorships, World Vision reversed the decision.

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