Some opponents discussed trying to overturn the ruling with a ballot measure, but that effort gained no traction. The Republican governor, Susana Martinez, urged New Mexicans to “respect one another in their discourse” and turn their focus to other issues.
A day after that ruling, a federal judge in Utah created even bigger waves, striking down the ban on gay marriage that voters in the conservative state had approved in 2004. It was the first of more than dozen similar rulings to follow by judges in other states.
U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby, a former Army combat engineer, said in his 53-page decision that Utah failed to show how allowing same-sex marriages would harm opposite-sex marriages in any way.
“In the absence of such evidence, the state’s unsupported fears and speculations are insufficient to justify the state’s refusal to dignify the family relationships of its gay and lesbian citizens,” he wrote.
More than 1,000 gay and lesbian couples wed in Utah before Shelby’s ruling was stayed.
A month later, Oklahoma’s same-sex marriage ban was also ruled unconstitutional, but the ruling was stayed before same-sex couples could begin marrying.
Late in the afternoon of Friday, May 9, a county circuit judge in Little Rock struck down Arkansas’ 10-year-old ban on gay marriages.
A week passed before Judge Chris Piazza’s ruling was stayed by the state Supreme Court, creating an opening in which more than 540 gay couples received marriage licenses — the first batch of gay weddings in the former Confederacy.
In Oregon, U.S. District Judge Michael McShane threw out the state’s same-sex marriage ban on May 18. Oregon swiftly became the 18th state to allow gay marriage, since top government officials had refused to defend the ban.
The next day, on the other side of the country, U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III struck down Pennsylvania’s marriage law.
“We are a better people than what these laws represent, and it is time to discard them into the ash heap of history,” Jones wrote in his decision.
Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, though opposed to gay marriage, said he would not appeal, and Pennsylvania became the 19th state where gay couples could wed.
As the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s marriage rulings approached, marriage-equality lawsuits were pending in all 31 of the states that still barred gays from marrying.
On Wednesday, a federal judge in Indiana struck down that state’s ban. And more notably, the first ruling was issued at the level of the federal appellate courts. A 2-1 decision from the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with Shelby that Utah’s gay-marriage ban was unconstitutional.
It’s possible that in another year, the issue could be back before the U.S. Supreme Court — with the justices facing a clear-cut choice on whether to rule that gay marriage must be allowed in every state.
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