Gay-Marriage Bans Take Another Hit

Tuesday's 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision likely clears the way for legal same-sex unions in Idaho and Nevada.

Otto Kitsinger/AP

Idaho and Nevada became the latest states to have their bans on same-sex marriage struck down by a federal appeals court on Tuesday, in the latest sign that the fight over gay unions is all but over.

The decision by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco was not directly connected to the move on Monday by the Supreme Court to reject appeals of marriage bans that had been struck down in five other states. But because of the high court's surprising inaction, there may be no impediment to legal gay marriage in Idaho and Nevada.

The 9th Circuit ruled on the merits of the case, and Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote that the bans violated the rights of the plaintiffs under the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.

"The lessons of our constitutional history are clear: inclusion strengthens,
rather than weakens, our most important institutions," Reinhardt wrote.

"When we integrated our schools, education improved. When we opened our juries to women, our democracy became more vital. When we allowed lesbian and gay soldiers to serve openly in uniform, it enhanced unit cohesion. When same-sex couples are married, just as when opposite-sex couples are married, they serve as models of loving commitment to all."

The Supreme Court's decision not to hear appeals in five other states–Virginia, Oklahoma, Indiana, Utah, and Wisconsin–also affected laws in six other states that fell under the same appellate circuit court districts. Assuming the 9th Circuit's ruling in Nevada and Idaho sticks, same-sex marriages would be legal in 32 states and the District of Columbia, covering a majority of the population in the United States.