Court nixes Utah ban on same-sex marriage

published in The Journal Record | June 26, 2014

On June 25, 2014, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeal struck down Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage as unconstitutional. The court is expected to rule soon in a similar case involving Oklahoma’s nearly identical 2004 state constitutional amendment that specifies a marriage must be between one man and one woman. The case is on appeal by the State of Oklahoma after U.S. District Judge Terence Kern of the Eastern District of Oklahoma ruled in January 2014 that the state ban on same-sex marriage violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

McAfee & Taft trial lawyer Michael Smith was interviewed by The Journal Record about the ruling and how the appeals court might rule in the Oklahoma case as well. He said he expects the court will reach the same conclusion given that the Utah and Oklahoma cases are so factually and procedurally similar.

“In light of the Supreme Court ruling on DOMA in (United States v.) Windsor, this ruling does not surprise me,” said Smith. “The 10th Circuit relies heavily on Windsor here.”

A number of marriage equality lawsuits are making their way through the federal appellate system, and Smith said the U.S. Supreme Court will eventually have its say on the issue. “Because this is the civil rights issue of our time, the Supreme Court will have to decide one of these cases and make it the law of the land,” said Smith. “That’s probably going to happen within the next two years and all indications are that the justices would affirm a decision like the 10th Circuit’s.”