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Here’s what you need to know about US gay marriage bans

DENVER — Utah’s attorney general plans to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court a ruling Wednesday that found states must allow gay couples to marry.

Republican Sean Reyes’ office said in a statement Wednesday it will file a petition to have the country’s highest court review the decision by a three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.

The office also left open the possibility of requesting a review from the full panel of judges at the 10th Circuit.

The attorney general’s office says even though the 10th Circuit ruling went against Utah, the state is pleased that it moves the important issue one step closer to the Supreme Court.

State same-sex marriage bans have been falling around the country since June 2013, when the nation’s highest court ordered the federal government to recognize gay marriages. The remaining state bans all face legal challenges to overturn them.

Gay and lesbian couples now can marry in 19 states and the District of Columbia, with Oregon and Pennsylvania being the latest to join the list.

The others are: Massachusetts, California, Connecticut, Iowa, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Maine, Maryland, Washington, Delaware, Hawaii, Minnesota, New Jersey, Rhode Island, New Mexico, Illinois and Pennsylvania. Same-sex couples cannot wed in the rest of the states yet.

Twelve state and federal appeals courts are reviewing pro-gay marriage rulings that have come in the past year. Those rulings are all on hold pending appellate court decisions. Here’s a look at where things stand with other legal challenges across the country:

Arkansas

A state judge in Arkansas’ largest county struck down the state’s gay 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.

Idaho

State officials announced they will appeal a decision from a federal judge overturning the state’s same-sex marriage ban. The appeal goes to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Indiana

A federal judge struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage Wednesday in a ruling that immediately allowed gay couples to wed. In a separate case, 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.

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.

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.

Nevada

Eight gay 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 has scheduled arguments for September. Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto is refusing to defend the ban.

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.

Tennessee

A federal judge ordered the state to recognize three same-sex couples’ marriages while their lawsuit against the state works through the courts. Tennessee officials are appealing the preliminary injunction to the 6th Circuit.

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.

Utah and Oklahoma

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver on Wednesday ruled that Utah must allow gay couples to marry, finding the Constitution protects same-sex relationships. The court’s ruling on Oklahoma’s ban is expected soon. Utah and Oklahoma voters overwhelmingly passed the bans in 2004.

Wisconsin

A federal judge in Madison struck down the state’s ban in June, leading to a flurry of gay and lesbian marriages across the state as more than half of the county clerks began issuing licenses. The judge didn’t order county clerks to begin issuing licenses or block them from handing them out, leaving it to the individual clerks’ discretion. The Wisconsin attorney general plans to appeal the ruling to 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago.

Virginia

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond heard arguments In May 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.

Elsewhere

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

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WHAT’S NEXT?

The ruling Wednesday by a three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver becomes law in the six states covered by the court: Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming. But gay marriages won’t be happening in those states — at least not right away — because the 10th Circuit issued a stay on its ruling pending an appeal.

The state of Utah does plan to appeal. Its attorney general’s office said Wednesday it will file a petition to have the country’s highest court review the decision. It also left open the possibility of requesting a review from the full panel of judges at the 10th Circuit.

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IS THIS THE ONLY APPEALS COURT WITH A GAY MARRIAGE CASE?

No. Judges in a total of six federal appeals courts and one state appeals court are hearing appeals of lower court rulings that overturned gay marriage bans or ordered states to recognize out-of-state marriages. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments about Virginia’s ban in early May, and a ruling is expected soon. The other four appeals courts have yet to hear arguments.

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WHAT TRIGGERED THE SERIES OF PRO-GAY MARRIAGE DECISIONS?

The Supreme Court last year found that the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act that forbade the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage improperly deprived gay couples of due process. That ruling came as polls showed a majority of Americans now support gay marriage.

Lower-court judges have repeatedly cited that Supreme Court decision when striking down same-sex marriage bans. So far, federal and state judges have ruled against bans in Arkansas, Idaho, Michigan, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Wisconsin and Indiana. They have ordered Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio and Tennessee to recognize same-sex marriages from other states. Gay marriage is legal in 19 states and the District of Columbia.

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WHEN DOES THE ISSUE RETURN TO THE SUPREME COURT?

Legal experts say the Supreme Court eventually will take a gay marriage case after one or more appeals court rulings, but that won’t happen until 2015 at the earliest. And the high court is under no obligation to take up the issue. The three-judge 10th Circuit panel is the first to rule out of six circuits hearing appeals.

In any of the appellate cases, the losing party can appeal directly to the Supreme Court, or first ask for the entire appellate court to review the ruling. It’s unclear which case would reach the high court first. The Supreme Court also could hold off and see how the nation’s appellate courts rule. It often waits until there is a conflict between appellate courts before taking a case.

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