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Legal battle over same-sex marriage intensifies across the U.S.

Thursday, May 22, 2014
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Katelyn Walls, seated, 25, of Parkersburg, W. Va., her sister Merideth Paff, standing, at right, 30, of Erie, Pa., and Paff's son 3-year-old Nicholas Paff, seated, at right, attend a rally at Perry Square in Erie, Pa., on Tuesday, May 20, 2014, in support of marriage equality in Pennsylvania. About 150 people turned out to celebrate a federal judge's overturning of Pennsylvania's ban on gay marriage. Christopher Millette, Erie Times-News (AP)

Katelyn Walls, seated, 25, of Parkersburg, W. Va., her sister Merideth Paff, standing, at right, 30, of Erie, Pa., and Paff’s son 3-year-old Nicholas Paff, seated, at right, attend a rally at Perry Square in Erie, Pa., on Tuesday, May 20, 2014, in support of marriage equality in Pennsylvania. About 150 people turned out to celebrate a federal judge’s overturning of Pennsylvania’s ban on gay marriage.

Marriage equality advocates are celebrating big legal victories this week after federal courts struck down same-sex marriage bans in two more states, and a federal lawsuit filed by four gay couples in Montana leaves just two states with same-sex marriage bans and no legal challenges aimed at overturning them.

But that’s likely to change soon and as same-sex marriage advocates in those two remaining states – North and South Dakota — gear up for a fight.

State marriage bans have been falling around the country since the U.S. Supreme Court last year struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act. Now, in 29 states, judges are being asked whether same-sex couples should have the right to marry.

“At this point, I don’t think that it matters, whether you’re first or last. I don’t think it matters at all. I think what matters is that we’re all sending a message to either the Supreme Court or the legislators in Washington, D.C., that this has got to stop,” Nancy Rosenbrahn of Rapid City, South Dakota, told The Associated Press Wednesday.

She and Jennie Rosenbrahn married in April in Minneapolis, and plan to sue in South Dakota to overturn that state’s gay marriage ban, and their attorney has signaled he may challenge North Dakota’s ban as well.

In 19 states and the District of Columbia, gay couples can already wed, with Oregon and Pennsylvania becoming the latest to join the list this week when federal judges struck down their bans and officials decided not to appeal.

Here’s a look at where things stand with other legal challenges across the country where rulings have been issued and are on appeal:

Arkansas

A state judge in Arkansas’ largest county earlier this month struck down the state’s same-sex marriage ban, saying the state has “no rational reason” for preventing gay couples from marrying. The state Supreme Court brought the marriages to a halt and is weighing state officials’ appeal. [ Wright v. Arkansas ]

Idaho

State officials announced this week they will appeal last week’s decision from a federal judge overturning the state’s same-sex marriage ban. The ruling is on hold until the appeal is decided in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. [ Latta v. Otter ]

Indiana

State attorneys have asked the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago to review a federal judge’s recent order requiring Indiana to recognize the out-of-state marriage of a lesbian couple in which one woman is terminally ill. That ruling applies just to one couple — not to others who were legally wed elsewhere and are seeking to have Indiana recognize their marriages. [ Baskin v. Bogan ]

Kentucky

After a federal judge ordered Kentucky to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states, attorney general Jack Conway said he would not defend the state’s law. But, the state has hired outside attorneys to handle the case and is appealing to 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, which has not yet scheduled a hearing. [ Bourke v. Beshear ]

Michigan

The 6th Circuit is reviewing Michigan’s same-sex marriage ban that was overturned by a federal judge in March following a rare trial that mostly focused on the impact of same-sex parenting on children. Arguments have not been scheduled. [ DeBoer v. Snyder ]

Nevada

Eight same-sex couples are challenging Nevada’s voter-approved 2002 ban that was upheld by a federal judge in 2012. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco hasn’t scheduled arguments yet. Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto is refusing to defend the ban. [ Sevcik v. Sandoval ]

Ohio

The 6th Circuit appeals court is reviewing two gay marriage cases from Ohio. The first involves recognizing gay marriages on death certificates, and the second involves an order for Ohio to recognize all out-of-state marriages. Arguments have not been scheduled in either case. [ Obergefell v. Himes and Henry v. Wymyslo ]

Tennessee

A federal judge ordered the state to recognize three same-sex couples’ marriages while their lawsuit against the state works through the courts. The ruling has been stayed and Tennessee officials are appealing the preliminary injunction to the 6th Circuit. [ Tanco v. Haslam ]

Texas

A federal judge declared the state’s ban unconstitutional, issuing a preliminary injunction. The state is appealing to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court in New Orleans. [ De Leon v. Perry ]

Utah and Oklahoma

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver is reviewing same-sex marriage bans that were overturned by federal court judges in Utah and Oklahoma. The appeals court heard arguments on both cases in April, and a ruling is expected soon. Utah and Oklahoma voters overwhelmingly passed the bans in 2004. [ Kitchen v. Herbert (Utah) and Bishop v. Smith (Okla.)

Virginia

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond heard arguments this month about Virginia's overturned ban and is expected to rule soon. Virginia's attorney general, Mark Herring, is one of seven in the country who has refused to defend a state gay marriage ban. A county clerk who was sued in Virginia is defending the ban.

Other states with court cases demanding recognition of gay marriage are: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona (2), Colorado, Florida (2), Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina (2) (3), South Carolina, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming. Most lawsuits challenge same-sex marriage bans or ask states to recognize gay marriages from other states.

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