June 26, 2014
The Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit has ruled that Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. This is the first federal appellate court to issue such a ruling.
In June 2013 the Supreme Court struck down a portion of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) as unconstitutional, and since then federal district courts across the country have been relying on the rationale provided by the Supreme Court, in U.S. v. Windsor, to strike down state laws banning same-sex marriage. The district court in Utah was one of the first to do so, in December 2013.
The Tenth Circuit’s decision will influence how other appellate courts decide this issue — and cases are currently pending before the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Ninth Circuits (at least). A case out of Virginia, before the Fourth Circuit, involves some of the same high-profile lawyers who argued the Prop 8 case before the Supreme Court last year.
And the Supreme Court is the next stop for this case– but the big question now is whether Utah will try to appeal the Tenth Circuit’s decision. Those who oppose same-sex marriage might hope to delay a Supreme Court ruling in favor of same-sex marriage by refusing to appeal the rulings of lower courts.
If Utah does appeal, it’s a pretty safe bet that the Supreme Court will take up and decide the matter in the upcoming 2014-2015 term. (The current 2013-2014 term ends next week.)