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Appeals Court Ruling Upholds Same-Sex Marriage Bans In 4 States

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

The nation-wide court battle over gay marriage just got a lot more interesting. A federal appeals court in Cincinnati ruled against the practice. To be more specific, the court upheld laws banning same-sex marriage in four states - Ohio Michigan, Tennessee and Kentucky. Other courts across the country had been overturning bans like that. NPR's Richard Gonzales reports.

RICHARD GONZALES, BYLINE: The decision out of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the right of states to set their own rules on who can and who can't get married. The three-judge panel was split 2-to-1 with the opinion written by Judge Jeffrey Sutton. He ruled that the courts should let the people or voters use customary political processes to resolve new social issues. Carl Tobias teaches constitutional law at the University of Richmond.

CARL TOBIAS: So we have the four other appeals courts invalidating bans, and we have the Sixth Circuit upholding a ban. And I think that's going to make it very difficult for the Supreme Court to avoid addressing the issue this term.

GONZALES: Until now, state bans against gay marriage have been falling like so many legal dominoes. Same-sex marriage is now legal in more than half the states and the District of Columbia. With the ruling out of the Sixth Circuit, advocates say they are preparing to argue their case before the highest court. Evan Wolfson is founder and president of Freedom to Marry.

EVAN WOLFSON: The silver lining here is that this really does underscore the urgency for the Supreme Court now to take these cases and rule in favor of the freedom to marry nationwide instead of forcing couples to drag out the fight state-by-state, family-by-family, year-by-year.

GONZALES: Lawyers for same-sex couples in Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee have the option of appealing the panel's decision to the entire Sixth Circuit. But preliminary indications are that they want to move directly to the Supreme Court. Richard Gonzales, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.