A federal judge in Denver struck down Colorado’s traditional marriage law on Wednesday, following a precedent set by a state judge earlier this month.
Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, and Attorney General John Suthers, a Republican, both say the ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. But they asked Judge Raymond P. Moore to keep the law in place until U.S. Supreme Court can rule on the issue definitively.
Moore said the state’s attorneys didn’t make their case to keep the law temporarily since they don’t support it. But the judge put his ruling on hold for a month to give the state time to appeal to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Based on that court’s rulings in other cases, it seems likely the federal appeals court will approve the stay. Earlier this month, the 10th Circuit struck down traditional marriage laws in Utah and Oklahoma but put their rulings on hold.
“There is a fuse that has been lit that is burning across federal courts, and all of the district courts that have looked at the issue seem to be pointing in a single direction,” Moore said during Wednesday’s hearing. “But not withstanding that, it seems as if with wet fingers the Supreme Court has put its finger on that fuse and perhaps said, ‘Wait.’”
The state of marriage
Until 2003, same-sex marriage was banned in all 50 states. But a lot has changed in the last decade. Seventeen states now allow same-sex marriage, either through legislative action or voter referendum. After the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the federal Defense of Marriage Act in 2013, judges in six states have struck down statues upholding traditional marriage. More judges likely will follow suit, and the question of whether states can determine what constitutes marriage within their borders will eventually be decided by the nation’s highest court.
The map below shows the state of marriage in each state, with more details about each one listed below.
Judicial activism in 2013 and 2014:
- Florida—A county judge rules same-sex couples can marry in the Florida Keys.
- Colorado—A state judge struck down the voter-approved same-sex marriage ban in July. A federal judge followed suit later that same month.
- Kentucky—A federal judge declared unconstitutional the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, approved by voters in 2004.
- Indiana—A federal judge declared unconstitutional the state’s statutory ban on same-sex marriage, enacted in 1997.
- Wisconsin—A federal judge ruled the state ban, approved by voters in 2006, was unconstitutional.
- Pennsylvania—A federal judge declares the state's voter-approved ban unconstitutional. Gov. Tom Corbett decides not to appeal.
- Oregon—A district judge declares its voter-approved ban unconstitutional.
- Idaho—A federal judge ruled the state's 2006, voter-approved ban is unconstitutional.
- Arkansas—A county circuit judge strikes down the state's ban, approved by voters in 2004.
- Ohio—Judge orders state to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. Ruling stayed pending appeal.
- Tennessee—A federal appeals court stays a lower court judge's orders that the state must recognize three same-sex marriages performed in other states. The ruling does not yet apply to other couples. The state is appealing the decision. Same-sex marriage was banned by constitutional amendment in 2006.
- Michigan—Constitutional ban overturned by federal judge. Judge’s ruling stayed pending appeal.
- Texas—Constitutional ban overturned by federal judge. Judge’s ruling stayed by the U.S. Supreme Court pending appeal.
- Kentucky—Judge orders state to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.
- Virginia—Constitutional ban overturned by federal judge. Judge’s ruling stayed pending appeal.
- Oklahoma—Constitutional ban overturned by federal judge. Judge’s ruling stayed pending appeal.
- Utah—Constitutional ban overturned by federal judge. Judge’s ruling stayed by the U.S. Supreme Court pending appeal. (2013)
Legalized in 2013:
- New Mexico—by state Supreme Court ruling
- Illinois—by state statute
- Hawaii—by state statute
- New Jersey—by a judge’s ruling
- California—by a federal judge’s ruling in 2010. The ruling did not go into effect until the Supreme Court upheld it in 2013.
- Minnesota—by state statute
- Delaware—by state statute
- Rhode Island—by state statute
Legalized in 2012:
- Maine—by voter referendum
- Maryland—by voter referendum
- Washington—voter referendum
Legalized in 2011 and 2009:
- New York—by state statute (2011)
- New Hampshire—by state statute
- Vermont—by state statute
- Iowa—by state Supreme Court ruling
Legalized in 2008:
- Connecticut—by state Supreme Court ruling
- Massachusetts—by state supreme court ruling
Banned in 2012:
- Nevada—Constitutional ban upheld by a federal judge, under review in federal appeals court
- North Carolina—by constitutional amendment
Banned by constitutional amendment in 2008:
Banned by constitutional amendment in 2006:
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
Banned by constitutional amendment in 2005 and 2004:
- Kansas (2005)
- North Dakota
- Oregon—Recognizes same-sex marriages performed in other states
- Nebraska—by constitutional amendment in 2000
- West Virginia—by state statute in 2000
- Alaska—by voter referendum in 1998
- Indiana—by state law in 1997
- Pennsylvania—by state statute in 1996
- Wyoming—by state statute in 1977