DENVER – The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit declared that Utah's ban on marriage for same-sex couples is unconstitutional. This marks the first time that an appellate-level court has ruled on state marriage bans following the dismantling of a key section of the federal "Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)," and sets the stage for the Supreme Court to consider state-level laws.
The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Utah submitted a "friend of the court" brief in support of the challenge to the law. The ACLU also has a lawsuit in Utah federal court seeking recognition of the marriages of same-sex couples who were wed before the U.S. Supreme Court temporarily halted marriages from taking place.
"This is a proud day for everybody in the state of Utah, and everybody across the country, who supports marriage equality," said John Mejia, legal director of the ACLU of Utah. "Though there is still much to do, the journey to ensuring the freedom to marry for all just got a huge boost with today's decision."
The 10th Circuit includes Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico, the only state in the circuit that allows same-sex couples to marry. The precedent from today's ruling applies to all of these states: its effect, however, has been stayed pending an expected application by Utah for Supreme Court review.
The ACLU has brought additional challenges against similar laws in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Virginia, Oregon, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Alabama and lawsuits seeking recognition of legal marriages inMichigan, Missouri, Florida, and Ohio. Following the Supreme Court's decision striking down DOMA – a case in which the ACLU served as co-counsel to Edie Windsor – the ACLU launched the Out for Freedom campaign to achieve the freedom to marry for same-sex couples across the country.
"This is a significant step in the astounding progress that has been made in just a few years toward achieving dignity for all families," said Joshua Block, staff attorney with the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project. "Today's decision will hopefully be the first of several around the country that will eventually lead to all loving couples being able to commit to each other and take care of each other with the protections that only come with marriage."