In a 2-1 ruling, the Tenth Circuit declared today that Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, affirming a 2013 district court opinion.  The ruling would make Utah the 21st state with marriage equality.  Appellate reviews are still pending in 8 states: Ohio, Texas, Kentucky, Michigan, Nevada, Tennessee, Oklahoma, and Virginia.

There are four other states in the Tenth Circuit who currently prohibit same-sex marriage: Oklahoma, Colorado, Kansas, and Wyoming.  New Mexico, also in the Tenth Circuit, already permits same-sex marriage.

The Tenth Circuit is the highest court to decide the issue and this ruling, applying a strict scrutiny review to State same-sex marriage bans, could have a ripple effect across the country.

From the majority opinion:

“May a State of the Union constitutionally deny a citizen the benefit or protection of the laws of the State based solely upon the sex of the person that citizen chooses to marry?

Having heard and carefully considered the argument of the litigants, we conclude that, consistent with the United States Constitution, the State of Utah may not do so. 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. 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.”

Implementation of the decision was stayed, pending an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Full opinion available here.