Larry Gist, left, hugs his partner Leonel Lopez hug as they wait in line to receive a marriage license at the Marion Courty Clerks office in Indianapolis, on Wednesday. (Michael Conroy / AP)
Denver— A federal appeals court ruled Wednesday that states must allow gay couples to marry, finding the Constitution protects same-sex relationships and putting a remarkable legal winning streak across the country one step closer to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The three-judge panel in Denver ruled 2-1 that states cannot deprive people of the fundamental right to marry simply because they want to be wedded to someone of the same sex.
The judges added they don’t want to brand as intolerant those who oppose gay marriage, but they said there is no reasonable objection to the practice.
“It is wholly illogical to believe that state recognition of love and commitment of same-sex couples will alter the most intimate and personal decisions of opposite-sex couples,” the judges wrote, addressing arguments that the ruling could undermine traditional marriage.
In his dissent, Justice Paul J. Kelly Jr. said the 10th Circuit overstepped its authority and that states should be able to decide who can marry.
“We should resist the temptation to become philosopher-kings, imposing our views under the guise of the Fourteenth Amendment,” he wrote.
The decision by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel upheld a lower court ruling that struck down Utah’s gay marriage ban. It becomes law in the six states covered by the 10th Circuit: Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming. But the panel immediately put the ruling on hold pending an appeal.
The Utah attorney general’s office said it will file a petition with the Supreme Court seeking a review of the decision.
Wednesday afternoon, the couples named in the appeal hugged, cried and exchanged kisses at a news conference.
Meanwhile, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals is reviewing Michigan’s same-sex marriage ban that was overturned by a federal judge in March following a rare trial that mostly focused on the impact of same-sex parenting on children.
Wednesday’s decision gives increased momentum to a cause that already has compiled an impressive record in the lower courts after the Supreme Court last year struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
The latest of those rulings was in Indiana, where a federal judge struck down that state’s same-sex marriage ban in a decision Wednesday that immediately allows gay couples to wed.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, based in Salt Lake City, said on its website that it maintains marriage should be between a man and a woman, but believes “all people should be treated with respect.”