DENVER — A federal appeals court Wednesday ruled for the first time that states must allow gay couples to marry, finding the Constitution protects same-sex relationships and putting a remarkable legal winning streak across the country one step closer to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The decision from a three-judge panel in Denver upheld a lower court ruling that struck down Utah's gay marriage ban. The panel immediately put the ruling on hold so it could be appealed, either to the entire 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals or directly to the nation's highest court.
"A state may not deny the issuance of a marriage license to two persons, or refuse to recognize their marriage, based solely upon the sex of the persons in the marriage union," the panel wrote. Gay marriage in Utah likely will remain on hold pending the appeal.