CHEYENNE, Wyo. — A federal court hearing this week on a challenge to Utah's ban on same-sex marriage will have ramifications for Wyoming and other western states.
The U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver is set to hear arguments Thursday in a case in which a Utah couple is challenging that state's ban on gay marriage. The court also has jurisdiction over Wyoming and four other states.
Wyoming Equality, a statewide group that has been leading the charge to allow gay marriage, is watching the Utah case closely.
Jeran Artery, the group's executive director, said there's no doubt that a same-sex marriage case ultimately will get to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The case up for argument in Denver this week, Kitchen v. Herbert, is one of dozens of pending lawsuits in about 30 states across the country, including Wyoming. They seek to override gay marriage bans at the state or federal level.
Evan Wolfson is president of Freedom to Marry, a group that is campaigning for marriage equality nationwide. He said the court's decision will effectively be the "law of the land" for the six states in the 10th Circuit.
"It does depend on how the court actually rules and whether it is a broad or a narrow and more specific ruling," Wolfson said. "But assuming that the court, for example, affirms the lower court ruling (that overturned Utah's ban), then that would apply to the 10th Circuit generally."
The appeals court's ruling could be put on hold if it is appealed again, Wolfson said.
"There are so many twists in the road ahead," he said. "But that seems to be the likely scenario."
If that occurs, Kitchen V. Herbert could become a prime candidate for the U.S. Supreme Court to select in order to make a sweeping ruling that could affect the entire country, Wolfson said. Another possible candidate for Supreme Court review is a case originating in Oklahoma that also will come before the 10th Circuit later this month.
Artery said the U.S. Supreme Court needs to "finish what it started" after it ruled unconstitutional the federal law that defined marriage as only between a man and woman last year.
"We are watching closely our friends in neighboring states and cheering them on," Artery said. "Because there is no doubt this (issue) will get to the Supreme Court. It is just a matter of when."
Wyoming has its own challenge to its prohibition on same-sex marriage. A group of Wyomingites filed the case, known as Courage v. Wyoming, last month in Laramie County District Court.