Two states may have joined the growing number of jurisdictions that provide for same-sex marriages. Utah and Oklahoma, two states that have a socially conservative reputation in political matters, and both of which voted Republican in the 2012 Presidential election, have hosted federal judges overturning their bans on gay marriage as unconstitutional. If these decrees stand, it would make these two states the 18th and 19th states to recognize same-sex marriage.
In Utah, US District Court Judge Robert Shelby issued a ruling that denying same-sex couples the right to marry was a violation of the Equal Protection clause of the US Constitution. From the day his ruling was issued, December 20th, over a thousand same-sex couples applied for marriage licenses in Utah. It took an emergency stay by the US Supreme Court to stop Utah from issuing the licenses pending appeal to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, housed in Denver. Utah Governor Gary Herbert instructed state agencies not to distribute benefits for the newly married couples until their legal status can be determined. The American Civil Liberties Union has sued the State of Utah on behalf of those gay couples that successfully married in order to receive those benefits.
In Oklahoma, US District Court Judge Terrence Kern issued a similar ruling on January 14th. Oklahoma’s ban on gay marriage, Judge Kern determined, violates the Constitution. Citing the Supreme Court’s stay issued in the case in Utah, Judge Kern stayed his ruling until it could be appealed. Oklahoma lies in the same appellate circuit as Utah; therefore, these cases will likely be consolidated.
This will not be the first time that the constitutionality of same-sex marriage has been brought before a federal appeals court. California’s controversial Proposition 8, which defined marriage as between one man and one woman, was ruled unconstitutional by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. When appealed to the Supreme Court, it was dismissed because the private parties defending the initiative lacked standing. This meant that gay couples could legally marry in California. It also opened the door for similar challenges to the constitutionality of statewide bans on gay marriage, like those at issue in Utah and Oklahoma.
Contact an Illinois Marriage Attorney
Starting June 1st, Illinois will begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. There are many things that one can gain from marriage, amongst them financial and social rights. It can at times be fraught with emotion, and it can also be legally confusing. An experienced family law attorney can help navigate the swiftly-changing law and can advise on the best course of action. If you have a family law matter to settle, contact Sullivan Taylor & Gumina for a consultation today.