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The highest federal court yet just ruled in favor of same-sex marriages

Pedro Armestre / AFP via Getty Images

In a huge victory for marriage equality, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday deemed Utah's same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional.

The 2-1 ruling makes the 10th Circuit Court the highest federal court yet to rule on the issue of same-sex marriage since the US Supreme Court struck down the federal government's ban. The decision affects all states within the 10th circuit: Utah, Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Wyoming.

The decision, in other words, upholds and somewhat expands a lower court's December 2013 ruling to strike down Utah's same-sex marriage ban.

Just like rulings before it, the 10th Circuit Court cited the Constitution's Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses in its defense of same-sex couples' right to marry.

"We hold that the Fourteenth Amendment protects the fundamental right to marry, establish a family, raise children, and enjoy the full protection of a state's marital laws," Circuit Court Judge Carlos Lucero wrote in the majority opinion. "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 court, however, put the decision on hold until the US Supreme Court finally decides the issue. So couples who live in states within the 10th circuit will have to wait before they can get married — if their states don't allow same-sex marriages already.

Although the 10th Circuit Court is the highest federal court to rule on the issue so far, the decision is just one of many recent rulings in favor of same-sex marriage. Most recently, courts struck down same-sex marriage bans in Indiana, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Oregon.

Further reading

Update: This post was updated with more details as the story developed.

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