10th Circuit Court: First Appellate Court to Rule on Same-Sex Marriage

Landmark Progress for Marriage Equality

BTL Staff

DENVER - The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of freedom to marry on June 25, upholding a marriage ruling out of Utah in December, calling Utah's ban on same-sex marriage violates the constitution. This is the first ruling by a federal appellate court since last year's victory in dismantling DOMA in the Supreme Court.

"Today, from the heart of the Mountain West, in a case arising out of Utah, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has brought us one giant step closer to the day when all Americans will have the freedom to marry," Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to marry said in response to the victory. "This first federal appellate ruling affirms what more than 20 other courts all across the country have found: There is no good reason to perpetuate unfair marriage discrimination any longer. America is ready for the freedom to marry, and it is time for the Supreme Court to bring our country to national resolution and it should do so now."

The 10th Circuit includes Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma and New Mexico, the only state in the circuit that allows same-sex marriage. Today's precedent applies to all of these states. The effect; however, has been stayed pending an expected application by Utah for Supreme Court review.

The case, Kitchen v. Herbert was brought by Utah couples Derek Kitchen and Moudi Sbeity, Laurie Wood and Kody Partridge, and Karen Archer and Kate Call. The couples were represented by Salt Lake City law firm of Magleby and Greenwood, P.C. and by the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

"We are overjoyed by the court's decision, which means so much to us, our family, and everyone who believes in justice and fairness," plaintiff Kitchen said. "Since the lawsuit was filed last year, we have received so much support from so many people in our state, and we are now looking forward to the day when we will finally be married."

Peggy Tomsic of the Magleby and Greenwood, who presented the oral argument on behalf of the plaintiff couples called today's decision an affirmation of the fundamental principles of equality, fairness and the common humanity of gay and lesbian people.

"As the Court recognized, these families are part of Utah's community, and equal protection requires that they be given the same legal protections and respect as other families in this state. The Court's ruling is a victory not only for the courageous couples who brought this case, but for our entire state and every state within the Tenth Circuit," Tomsic said.

Currently, 44 percent of Americans live in states where LGBT couples have the freedom to marry, which includes 19 states and the District of Columbia. A recent polling by the Washington Post and ABC News shows that 59 percent of Americans support marriage equality.

"This is a very significant ruling that brings us even closer to marriage equality in the entire United States of America," Executive Director for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Rea Carey said. "Its that big."

The ACLU has brought additional challenges against similar laws in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Virginia, Oregon, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Alabama with lawsuits seeking recognition of legal marriages in Michigan, Missouri, Florida, and Ohio. Pennsylvania and Oregon became the most recent states to begin issuing marriage licenses to LGBT couples.

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