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10th circuit fast-tracks Oklahoma same-sex marriage case

Jan. 29, 2014 at 3:57 PM

OKLAHOMA CITY, Jan. 29 (UPI) -- A federal appeals court has fast-tracked a review of an Oklahoma judge's ruling striking down the state's same-sex marriage ban, lawyers said.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Utah, will hear arguments in April over whether to let stand a ruling by Senior U.S. District Judge Terence C. Kern that the Oklahoma's ban on gay marriage violates the 14th amendment rights of a lesbian couple to equal protection under the law.

The same court will hear arguments in a separate but similar case in Utah, where a federal judge struck down that state's voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage, also on 14th amendment grounds.

Though nearly identical in practice, the two cases will not be heard together, the appeals court has ruled. One or both of the appeals court rulings are almost certainly headed for the U.S. Supreme Court, which has never weighed in on whether states have the right to ban same-sex couples from marrying -- a ruling that would either legalize gay marriage in all 50 states or present a major setback for gay-rights advocates.

The same three-judge panel will hear arguments on both state marriage bans. The names of the judges were not available Tuesday, the (Oklahoma City) Oklahoman reported.

In Oklahoma, Kern issued an immediate stay of his ruling, meaning though the ban has been struck down, same-sex couples cannot begin applying for marriage licenses until after the case is resolved on appeal. In Utah, no such stay was immediately offered and several hundred couples rushed to marry until the U.S. Supreme Court put a halt to it, pending appeal.

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