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Marriage Equality

Federal Judge Strikes Down Wyoming's Marriage Ban

Federal Judge Strikes Down Wyoming's Marriage Ban


The order comes with a stay until Thursday, or until state officials stop defending the ban in court.

The latest state to be hit by the recent marriage equality avalanche is Wyoming, where a federal judge today ruled the state's ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional, reports BuzzFeed's Chris Geidner.

U.S. District Court Judge Scott Skavdahl placed a stay on his ruling until Thursday, meaning same-sex couples in the Equality State cannot wed until that time -- or possibly sooner, if state officials formally stop defending the voter-approved ban in court.

At press time, Wyoming's Republican governor, Matthew Mead, had not directly commented on today's ruling, but the Casper Star-Tribune reports that during a gubernatorial candidate debate Thursday night, Mead said the state should not appeal a ruling in favor of marriage equality.

"Marriage licenses may not be denied on basis that the applicants are same-sex couples," Skavdahl wrote in his 16-page ruling. The judge wrote that his conclusion was compelled by recent pro-equality decisions in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in Oklahoma and Utah, as the 10th Circuit also covers Wyoming.

On October 6, the U.S. Supreme Court let stand pro-equality rulings in cases from both those states and three others, making the appellate court decisions legally binding in all the states included in each circuit. That prompted Colorado's attorney general to drop his defense of the state's marriage ban, and same-sex couples there began marrying by that week's end.

In Wyoming, four same-sex couples and a statewide LGBT group filed a lawsuit October 8 seeking immediate marriage equality in the state, with attorneys for the couples arguing that the 10th Circuit's ruling is now the law in Wyoming.

As for the remaining states in the 10th Circuit, New Mexico embraced marriage equality earlier this year, while Kansas officials have continued to argue that the 10th Circuit's ruling is not binding in their state. On October 8, a state judge in Kansas's Johnson County (the state's most populous) ordered clerks to begin issuing marriage licenses there, though state officials effectively petitioned for a stay to halt the issuance of licenses to same-sex couples.

Just hours before Skavdahl's ruling, decisions in Arizona and Alaska brought the total number of marriage equality states to 31, in addition to Washington, D.C., according to the Human Rights Campaign. Skavdahl's ruling marks the 46th in state or federal courts finding in favor of the freedom to marry since the Supreme Court delivered its landmark decision striking down the so-called Defense of Marriage Act in June 2013.

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