Federal court overturns ban on same-sex marriages in five more US states

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A federal court has struck down gay marriage bans in several western US states, effectively raising the number of states in which same-sex couples can marry from 19 to 35 over just two days. The ruling by the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals applied specifically to gay marriage prohibitions in Nevada and Idaho, but also covers the other states under the court’s jurisdiction where similar bans have been in effect, namely Arizona, Montana and Alaska.The Ninth Circuit decision will likely face further appeals before it takes effect, but comes just a day after the US Supreme Court announced it would not consider appeals over the lifting of gay marriage bans in Virginia, Oklahoma, Utah, Wisconsin and Indiana, meaning gay and lesbian couples in those five states were able to marry immediately.

The Supreme Court’s decision also applied to states under the jurisdiction of the same federal appeals courts that supported striking down those bans. Thus, experts predict gay marriage will also soon be legal in North Carolina, West Virginia, South Carolina, Wyoming and Kansas. Colorado began issuing same-sex marriage licences on Tuesday.

Writing for the Ninth Court’s three judge panel, Judge Stephen Reinhardt stated: “Idaho and Nevada’s marriage laws, by preventing same-sex couples from marrying and refusing to recognise same-sex marriages celebrated elsewhere, impose profound legal, financial, social and psychic harms on numerous citizens of those states.” Of claims that same-sex marriages would devalue traditional marriage, he added: “This proposition reflects a crass and callous view of parental love and the parental bond that is not worthy of response.”

The ruling comes a decade after Massachusetts became the first state in the US to allow same-sex marriage, leading many conservative states to introduce gay marriage bans. Last year, however, the Supreme Court struck down the 1996 Defence of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as between a man and woman. This week’s decisions mean that same-sex marriage is now legal in well over half the US, including several traditionally Republican states. Almost all the states where it is still banned are in the Midwest and South.

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