More than 200 people gathered outside the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver on Wednesday evening to demonstrate their support for marriage equality, just hours before the court was scheduled to hear opening arguments in Kitchen v. Herbert, the federal challenge to Utah's constitutional ban on marriage equality.
Speakers at the rally included out state Senator Pat Steadman, some of the first same-sex couples to receive a civil union license when Colorado enacted those rights last May, clergymembers, LGBT organizational leaders, and a prominent Republican leader, according to statewide equality organization One Colorado.
Although Colorado has a constitutional amendment prohibiting marriage equality, the case before the court — along with a similar case from Oklahoma to be considered by the same three-judge panel next Thursday — could make its way to the Supreme Court and require that body to rule more broadly on the constitutionality of same-sex marriage nationwide. Even if this case does not reach the Supreme Court, the ultimate ruling will impact the entire 10th Circuit, which includes Colorado, Utah, Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico, and Wyoming.
A three-judge panel — with two Republican appointees and one Democratic appointee — began hearing arguments from Utah officials and three same-sex couples who filed suit at 10 a.m. Mountain time today, in the first federal case challenging marriage inequality to reach the appellate level. Last December, a federal district judge declared the state's voter-approved constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional, resulting in a 17-day window of legal marriage equality in Utah where more than 1,300 same-sex couples married, before the Supreme Court issued a stay on that ruling in January.
Attorneys for the state's Republican governor and attorney general will argue that the constitutional amendment, known as Amendment 3 and approved by more than 65 percent of voters in 2004, protects children, and that any "redefinition" of the marriage to include gay and lesbian couples "poses real, concrete risks to children — especially in future generations," according to an excerpt of the state's brief published at The Wire.
The plaintiffs in the case are three same-sex couples, who are represented by attorneys James Magelby and Peggy Tomsic, and will argue that the federal district judge who struck down Utah's Amendment 3 was correct in determining that the law violated the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the U.S. Constitution.
"These laws deny Plaintiffs the stability, security, and protections that other families enjoy," reads the brief filed by the plaintiffs before the 10th Circuit. "In addition, treatment of Plaintiffs and other same-sex couples in Utah as strangers, rather than families, demeans their deepest relationships and stigmatizes their children by communicating that their families are second class."
Reporters inside the courtroom will not have Internet access, nor are cameras allowed inside the chambers, so the details of today's arguments won't be publicly available until those arguments have concluded.
Watch a report on yesterday's rally from the Associated Press below, and see images from the event underneath that.
Anna (left) and Fran Simon, pictured at the rally with their son Jeremy, were the first same-sex couple to be united in a civil union when Colorado made those rights available to same-sex couples in May.
Marriage equality supporters rally outside the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in downtown Denver on Wednesday evening.
Equality supporter show off what they're fighting for on the steps of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver on Wednesday.
Anna and Fran Simon display the reverse side of their placard at Wednesday's rally, noting that they've taken advantage of the limited rights afforded to same-sex couples in Colorado.
More than 200 people gathered to support marriage equality outside the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver one day before the court hears opening arguments in Kitchen v. Herbert, the federal suit challenging Utah's marriage inequality.