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      Nearly simultaneous decisions strike down gay marriage bans

      The plaintiffs challenging Utah's gay marriage ban.

      DENVER (AP) ?? With nearly simultaneous decisions, two separate federal courts ruled on Wednesday that states cannot ban same-sex marriage.

      A federal appeals court ruled Wednesday 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 three-judge panel in Denver ruled 2-1 that states cannot deprive people of the fundamental right to marry simply because they want to be wedded to someone of the same sex.

      Meanwhile in Indianapolis, a federal judge struck down Indiana's ban on same-sex marriage Wednesday in a ruling that immediately allowed gay couples to wed.

      The court clerk in Marion County, home to Indianapolis, began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couple about an hour after U.S. District Judge Richard Young ruled that the state law violates the U.S. Constitution's equal-protection clause.

      "Same-sex couples, who would otherwise qualify to marry in Indiana, have the right to marry in Indiana," he wrote. "These couples, when gender and sexual orientation are taken away, are in all respects like the family down the street. The Constitution demands that we treat them as such."

      While the separate decisions are sweeping in their language, each only applies to the states within each court's jurisdiction. The Denver decision by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel becomes law in the six states covered by that circuit: Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming.

      The Indianapolis decision applies only to the state of Indiana.

      While marriage licenses were being handed out to same-sex couples in Indiana following the judge's decision there, the judges in Denver immediately put their ruling on hold pending an appeal.

      The Utah attorney general's office said in a statement it will file a petition with the Supreme Court seeking a review of the panel's ruling. It also left open the possibility of requesting a review from the full panel of 10th Circuit judges.

      The Indiana attorney general's office said it would appeal the ruling in that state, but declined further comment.


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