Boise, Idaho: A federal appeals court declared gay marriage legal in Idaho and Nevada on Tuesday, a day after the U.S. Supreme Court effectively legalized same-sex marriage in 30 other states.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco struck down Idaho and Nevada's bans on gay marriage, ruling they violated equal protection rights.
Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote for a unanimous three-judge panel that laws that treat people differently based on sexual orientation are unconstitutional unless there is a compelling government interest.
He wrote that neither Idaho nor Nevada offered any legitimate reasons to discriminate against gay couples.
State and federal court judges have been striking down bans at a rapid rate since last year's landmark U.S. Supreme Court, which partially struck down a Clinton-era federal law that defined marriage as between a man and a woman.
The 9th Circuit ruling comes a day after the nation's top court effectively legalized gay marriage in 11 more states—for a total of 30 -- when it rejected a set of appeals from several states.
While that ruling stopped short of resolving for now the question of same-sex marriage nationwide, it continued a dramatic turnaround on the issue across the United States, where gay marriage has gained approval in public opinion polls in recent years.
Reinhardt rejected the argument that same-sex marriages will devalue traditional marriage, leading to more out-of-wedlock births.
“This proposition reflects a crass and callous view of parental love and the parental bond that is not worthy of response,” Reinhardt wrote. “We reject it out of hand.”
The court also has jurisdiction in three other states that still have marriage bans in place: Alaska, Arizona and Montana.
Lawsuits challenging bans in those states are still pending in lower courts and have not reached the 9th Circuit.
Technically, the court upheld a trial judge's ruling striking down Idaho's ban and reversed a lower court ruling upholding Nevada's ban.
Reinhardt ordered a “prompt issuance” of a lower court order to let same-sex couples wed In Nevada.
Monte Neil Stewart, the Idaho-based attorney who argued the case for Nevada on behalf of the Coalition for the Protection of Marriage, declined to say whether he'll challenge the order for the prompt start to same-sex marriages. Nevada's governor and attorney general dropped out of the appeal earlier this year.
Reinhardt didn't say when marriages should start in Idaho.
Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden's spokesman Todd Dvorak said his office believes the 9th Circuit's stay on marriages pending a U.S. Supreme Court appeal remains in place.
The appeals court panel did not rule on a similar case in Hawaii, which legalized gay marriage in December.
Hawaii's governor had asked the court to toss out a lawsuit challenging the state's ban and an appeal to the 9th Circuit filed before Hawaii lawmakers legalized same-sex marriage.