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Same-sex marriage is likely heading to the Supreme Court

Justice Anthony Kennedy prepares to testify before Congress.
Justice Anthony Kennedy prepares to testify before Congress.
Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images News

Utah's government will appeal a previous ruling that struck down the state's same-sex marriage ban to the Supreme Court, potentially putting the case in front of the highest court in the nation as early as 2015.

The appeal means Utah will skip a potential step in the appeals process known as en banc review, which would require the 10th Circuit Court to review its previous decision with more of the court's judges on the case.

The appeal will instead head to the Supreme Court. The court could consider whether to take the appeal in late 2014. If the court accepts, it will likely hear and decide the case by June 2015.

LGBT advocates are fairly confident the Supreme Court will rule 5-4 to strike down states' same-sex marriage bans, just like the court did in the case against the federal Defense of Marriage Act. After all, Justice Anthony Kennedy, who would likely act as the swing vote in the Utah case, wrote the majority opinion that ended the federal government's ban on same-sex marriages.

"Under DOMA, same-sex married couples have their lives burdened, by reason of government decree, in visible and public ways," Kennedy wrote. "By its great reach, DOMA touches many aspects of married and family life, from the mundane to the profound."

The same rationale could be applied to states' same-sex marriage bans. That's, in fact, what lower courts upholding same-sex marriage rights in the states have done. If Kennedy takes the same path, marriage equality could be nationwide next year.

Update: On the same day, the Supreme Court announced it will not stop same-sex marriages in Pennsylvania. After a federal court struck down that state's same-sex marriage ban, Pennsylvania officials refused to appeal. As a result, no one has the legal standing to appeal the case or legally contest same-sex marriages in Pennsylvania from this point forward. Pennsylvania, in other words, is now a full marriage equality state.