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Jun 25, 2014

LANDMARK VICTORY: 10th Circuit Appeals Court Rules in Favor of Marriage Equality

The 10th Circuit ruling affects all states in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, including Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming.

Denver, C.O. – Today the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver ruled in favor of same-sex couples’ freedom to marry, upholding a marriage ruling out of Utah. It is the first ruling by a federal appellate court since last year's victory in the Supreme Court and, unless reversed, will pave the way for the freedom to marry throughout the 10th Circuit. The ruling affects all states in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals: Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming.

The 10th Circuit Court on Wednesday focused their ruling on the 14th Amendment, which gives equal protection to American citizens, and their reading of the Constitution that the legal rights of married couples has nothing to do with the gender of those in the union.

"A state may not deny the issuance of a marriage license to two persons, or refuse to recognize their marriage, based solely upon the sex of the persons in the marriage union," the 10th Circuit Court ruled.

"We hold 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. A state may not deny the issuance of a marriage license to two persons, or refuse to recognize their marriage, based solely upon the sex of the persons in the marriage union," the appellate court said.

The decision concludes: "Courts do not sit in judgment of the hearts and minds of citizens."

The court stayed the implementation of their decision, pending an anticipated appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

At almost the same time, news spread that a federal judge had struck down Indiana's ban on same-sex marriage in a ruling without a stay that immediately allows same-sex couples in that state couples to wed.

Chris Sgro, executive director of Equality NC, cheered both rulings he believes will bring North Carolina and the nation one step closer to the freedom to marry.

"Today, we not only celebrate with our friends in Indiana but are encouraged that the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has unequivocally spoken to the fact that the freedom to marry is a fundamental liberty deserved by those across multiple states. We can't help but believe that this decision sets the stage for our 4th Circuit -- sooner than later -- to pave the way for marriage equality through much of the South, including the Tar Heel State."

This year, a federal judge in Virginia ruled that the state's anti-marriage amendment also violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. In May 2014, the case was heard by the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. Like today's 10th circuit ruling, the 4th circuit panel ruling could impact multiple states, including Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and West Virginia.

Sgro added, "While today's decision in the 10th Circuit ruling was stayed and will not immediately yield the freedom to marry for so many loving couples across the Mountain West, we remain hopeful that our 4th Circuit will yield a similar result, provide binding precedent to topple discriminatory laws like Amendment One, and further provide the impetus for the Supreme Court to bring our country to a national resolution on the issue of marriage equality as soon as next summer."

Since one year ago, an unbroken string of 22 courts have ruled in favor of marriage equality.

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