By Lawrence Hurley
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. appeals court on Thursday ruled that bans against gay marriage in the states of Wisconsin and Indiana violate the U.S. Constitution.
The three-judge panel of the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously against the bans and in favor of same-sex couples, just over a week after hearing oral arguments in the two different cases.
Judge Richard Posner, the panel’s lone Republican appointee, writing the majority opinion, said the bans were in violation of the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law.
The arguments advanced by both states in defense of the bans were “totally implausible,” he wrote.
The Chicago court is the third federal appeals court to rule on gay marriage, with all three siding with those challenging the bans.
Dana Brueck, a spokeswoman for Wisconsin’s attorney general, J.B. Van Hollen, a Republican, said the state will appeal.
“The attorney general has always believed that this case will ultimately be decided by the United States Supreme Court,” she said.
Hoosiers Unite for Marriage, a gay rights group that backed the challenge to Indiana’s ban, said in a statement that its members were “incredibly grateful” that the court ruled so quickly in favor of couples who want to get married.
The Supreme Court now has three cases on the issue pending and is expected to weigh in during its coming term, which starts in October and ends in June 2015.
More than 30 courts overall have ruled in favor of gay marriage since a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June 2013 struck down a key part of the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act under which states could refuse to recognize same-sex marriages from other states.
A federal judge in Louisiana bucked the trend on Wednesday when he upheld that state’s ban.
Gay marriage is legal in 19 of the 50 states and in Washington, D.C.
(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien; Editing by Sandra Maler, Kevin Drawbaugh and Leslie Adler)
[Image via Agence France-Presse]