Wednesday saw two major victories for LGBTQ rights with a federal court of appeals ruling in Utah upholding the end of its same-sex marriage ban, and Indiana seeing its own marriage ban overturned by a federal judge. The cases settle appeals within the state but could still be subject to appeal in the Supreme Court. At present, there are nineteen other states that legally allow same-sex marriage, including California, Connecticut, Oregon, and New York, with Utah and Indiana making it twenty-one. Still awaiting appeal results are ten states according to Freedom to Marry, including Idaho, Arkansas, Tennessee, Texas, Viginia, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Oklahoma.
Utah saw a lower court ruling upheld in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals panel. According to The Wall Street Journal, this marks the first ruling at that court level, with the 10th Circuit Court falling just under the Supreme Court. The case was brought a year ago by three couples based on the argument that the marriage ban in Utah prevented all state residents from equally enjoying due process and equal protection.
The ruling was held by Judge Carlos Lucero and Judge Jerome Holmes, with Judge Paul Joseph Kelly dissenting. The majority sought to answer the a question “left open” by United States v. Windsor — which struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act — asking “May a State of the Union constitutionally deny a citizen the benefit or protection of the laws of the State based solely upon the sex of the person that citizen chooses to marry?”
In answer, the court ruled that “consistent with the United States Constitution, the State of Utah may not do so,” going on to outline its application to couples such as Derek Kitchen and Moudi Sbeity who have been in a relationship for years and own a business together. In dealing with more specific issues, they addressed the item of same-sex parenting, stating that while they consider the State’s discussion of heterosexual couple parenting versus same-sex parents as “compelling,” they say that science is “inconclusive” and as such “on strict scrutiny, an argument based only on pure speculation and conjecture cannot carry the day.”
For his party, Judge Kelly concluded that “there is no such fundamental right” forcing the state to utilize strict scrutiny, and claiming while “same-sex marriage presents a highly emotional and important question of public policy,” it does not constitute a complex quandary “at least when it comes to the States’ right to enact laws preserving or altering the traditional composition of marriage.”