Courts knock down gay marriage bans in Arizona, Alaska, Wyoming

Fri Oct 17, 2014 7:38pm EDT
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By David Schwartz

PHOENIX (Reuters) - Barriers to gay marriage fell in Arizona, Alaska and Wyoming on Friday following a series of federal court actions in the latest in a series of legal victories for supporters of same-sex matrimony in America.

In Arizona, U.S. District Judge John Sedwick wrote in a ruling made public on Friday that the state's restrictions on gay marriage were "unconstitutional by virtue of the fact that they deny same-sex couples the equal protection of the law."

Same-sex couples in the state began getting married right away. In Phoenix, Kevin Patterson and David Larance rushed to a county clerk's office after the decision and were swiftly married in a ceremony just outside the building.

"I'm just overjoyed, it's been a long time coming," said Patterson, a plaintiff in the Arizona case.

Separately, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a last-minute request from Alaska seeking to block a ruling by a federal judge that struck down that state's ban, and a U.S. district judge overturned a gay marriage ban in Wyoming.

A state holiday in Alaska meant gay couples would not be able to apply for marriage licenses there until Monday, nor were marriages expected to immediately proceed in Wyoming thanks to a temporary stay on the judge's ruling in order to provide the state time to pursue an appeal.

Alaska Governor Sean Parnell's office said the state would resume issuing marriage licenses on Monday while going forward with a last-ditch legal appeal.

The court actions would bring to 32 the number of states that allow gay marriage, if the Wyoming ban is not placed on a more permanent hold by a higher court by Oct. 23.   Continued...

Larry Ferri (R) and Brandi Morris (C) hold large rainbow flag as gay couples marry outside of Mecklenburg County Register of Deeds office in Charlotte, North Carolina, October 13, 2014.    REUTERS/Davis Turner