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Utah's Gay Marriage Ban Struck Down By Circuit Court

On Wednesday, the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a decision from a Utah judge striking down the state’s gay marriage ban. 

Six months after the state appealed Judge Shelby’s ruling, which found Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional, a three-judge panel from the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court's decision in a 2-1 ruling. However, with the ruling, the court put an immediate stay on the decision.

Utah’s Attorney General Sean Reyes said the state plans to appeal, but the office is still assessing whether it will go directly to the Supreme Court or take the case back to the 10th Circuit Court.

Moudi Sbeity is one of six plaintiffs in the Kitchen v. Herbert case. He said he was overwhelmed by the ruling.

“It means so much to my partner and I, our family and to a lot of the families in Utah,” he said.

In response to the decision, Gov. Gary Herbert said in a statement he was disappointed with the decision and reiterated his belief that states have the right to determine their laws regarding marriage.

"I am grateful the Court issued a stay to allow time to analyze the decision and our options," Herbert wrote. "But as I have always said, all Utahns deserve clarity and finality regarding same-sex marriage and that will only come from the Supreme Court."

Greg Goelzhauser is a professor in political science at Utah State University. He predicts the state will take the case to the Supreme Court instead of going back to the 10th Circuit Court, where there are six Democrat and five Republican appointees; with one of the Republican appointees siding with the majority Wednesday.

He predicts the Supreme Court will wait for other circuit court decisions from around the country before addressing at least one of the 70 pending same-sex marriage cases in a consolidated case.

Clifford Rosky, professor of law at the University of Utah, said based on previously made statements from Supreme Court justices, he believes the high court would rule in favor of same-sex marriage within the next year.

"If the Supreme Court upholds this ruling, then same-sex couples will have the ability to marry in all 50 states," he said.  

The controversy over the state’s spending on the case is likely to continue. Goelzhauser explains why the Utah case is different than those seen in other states.

“Utah is going to presumably end up spending more money on this litigation than other comparable states because they decided to pay outside counsel,” Goelzhauser said.

In a similar decision, an Indiana Court ruled to strike down the state's ban on same-sex marriage. 

The Supreme Court will reconvene in October.