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Federal court overturns marriage bans in Indiana, Wisconsin

Updated: September 4, 2014 5:35PM

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago has ruled that gay marriage bans in Wisconson and Indiana are unconstitutional.

The unanimous decision by the three-judge panel is yet another in a series of courtroom wins for gay-marriage advocates. Since last year, the vast majority of federal rulings have declared same-sex marriages bans unconstitutional.

The Wisconsin and Indiana cases shifted to Chicago after attorneys general in the states appealed separate lower court rulings in June that tossed the bans. The 7th Circuit stayed those rulings pending its own decision on the cases, which were considered simultaneously.

Between the bans being struck down and the order restating them as the appeals process ran its course, hundreds of gay couple in both states rushed to marry. Those marriages could have been jeopardized had the 7th Circuit restored the bans.

Gay marriage is legal in 19 states and the District of Columbia; momentum is building for more states to recognize it.

When the 7th Circuit heard arguments in the case just last week, Judge Richard Posner seemed dismissive of arguments in favor of keeping the ban.

Posner, appointed by President Ronald Reagan, often cut off Indiana Solicitor General Thomas Fisher, chiding him to answer his questions. Joining Posner on the panel were Ann Claire Williams, a Bill Clinton appointee, and David Hamilton, appointed by President Barack Obama.

In Wisconsin, the constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage had been approved by voters. In Indiana, it was banned by a state law.

Later Thursday, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller’s office announced he will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to stay the appeals court ruling.

It seems clear, Zoeller said, that the nation’s highest court will have to rule on the gay marriage issue, and he hopes it will decide “sooner rather than later.”

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