Utah's battle over same-sex marriage goes another round at court of appeals

- DENVER, Colorado (ABC 4 Utah) - The fate of Utah’s Amendment 3 is now in the hands of a federal appeals court. Same-sex couples and the state went before a three-judge panel in Denver Thursday morning.

Both sides had 30 minutes to make their case arguing some very complicated legal points at times.

Simply put the state insists it has the authority to define marriage as between a man and a woman. Plaintiff's say that stance treats them as second class citizens.

Plaintiff’s in Utah’s Amendment 3 case exit the federal courthouse in downtown Denver the same way they sat through the appeals hearing united, hand in hand.

"My gut feeling is that we are on the right side of history. I believe that our attorney's put forth the strongest argument possible,” said Derek Kitchen, plantiff.

That argument is Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. Specifically, it violates the due process and equal protection rights of the 14th Amendment. That was the center of the plaintiff's plea to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, that a state has no right to infringe on an individual’s constitutional rights.

"We look forward to bringing marriage equality to Utah and to the rest of the 10th Circuit," said Peggy Tomsic, plaintiff’s attorney.

They are asking the court to uphold Judge Shelby’s December 20th ruling that Amendment 3 is unconstitutional, but the state wants it overturned.

"I think this case is fundamentally about the right for a state, like Utah to be able to determine something as significant and fundamental as marriage through the democratic process,” said Sean Reyes, Utah Attorney General.

Reyes says it's his job to uphold and defend Utah law. He even approached the three couples behind the lawsuit before the hearing got underway and wished them the best and apologized for any pain this may be causing them.

"It wasn't personal, I wanted them to appreciate that their families are as important as my family is to me,” said Reyes.

Derek kitchen whose name is on the case does appreciate the gesture from the AG, but doesn't understand his position.

"I speak for a number of couples when I say it's hard to hear people argue against us, because we are loving and committed individuals,” said Kitchen.

The three judges will now consider the arguments and determine which one the law sides with. It's up to them when that decision will come down. Next week they will hear Oklahoma’s case on same-sex marriage. Law experts believe they will rule on both cases at the same time.

Regardless of what decision comes down here the consensus is the U.S. Supreme Court will end up being the final authority on this issue.

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