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gay marriage and courts

Tuesday, Utah became the first of many states to make an appeal to the Supreme Court to review its marriage laws.

by Diane Robertson

The 10th Circuit court overturned marriage laws in Utah and Oklahoma in the past two months. The 4th Circuit overturned Virginia’s laws last week, and the 6th Circuit court will hear arguments this week. The 7th Circuit court is set for arguments on the 26th of this month, and the 9th Circuit will hear arguments in September.

Any future rulings from the 8th circuit will be particularly important. In 2006 the court ruled that Nebraska’s same sex marriage ban was constitutional. This ruling could be an important factor in whether or not the Supreme Court decides to take on same sex marriage a second time. The Supreme Court will typically take 100 to 150 cases of the more than 7,000 requests for hearings each year. An indicator that the Supreme Court will hear a case is if there are opposing rulings among the circuit courts. If the 8th circuit rules same sex marriage is unconstitutional like the other recent rulings then that changes the opposing rulings among the circuit courts. As of today, there is an opposing ruling.

Trying to convince the Justices of the necessity in answering the question about same sex marriage, Utah’s petition argues that legal chaos has ensued from the dozens of cases challenging state marriage laws and the erratic use of stays. The petition argues that only the Supreme Court can remove the “vast cloud covering this entire area of the law.”

Based on the equal protection clause in the 14th amendment, recent rulings from the 10th and 4th circuits declare same sex marriage bans unconstitutional. Utah is asking the Supreme Court to answer the question: “Whether the 14th Amendment prohibits a state from defining or recognizing marriage only as the legal union between a man and a woman.”

“It comes down to this,” the petition states, “Thousands of couples are unconstitutionally being denied the right to marry, or millions of voters are being disenfranchised of their vote to define marriage.”

The Supreme Court convenes again on Oct 6th. Most people expect the justices to have a decision about hearing, for a second time, arguments over same sex marriage by the end of October. If the Supreme Court does not take the case, then the rulings at the circuit courts will be the final judgment on same sex marriage, but if the Supreme Court takes the case, then they will have a ruling by the end of June 2015.

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