CHICAGO — Federal appeals judges bristled on Tuesday at arguments defending gay marriage bans in Indiana and Wisconsin, with one Republican appointee comparing them to now-defunct laws that once outlawed weddings between blacks and whites.
As the legal skirmish in the United States over same-sex marriage shifted to the three-judge panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, more than 200 people lined up hours before to ensure they got a seat at the much-anticipated hearing.
While judges often play devil’s advocate during oral arguments, the panel’s often-blistering questions for the defenders of the same-sex marriage bans could be a signal the laws may be in trouble – at least at this step in the legal process.
Attorneys general in both states asked the appellate court to permanently restore the bans, which were ruled unconstitutional in June. Its ruling could affect hundreds of couples who married after lower courts tossed the bans and before those rulings were stayed pending the Chicago appeal.
Gay marriage is legal in 19 states as well as the District of Columbia, and advocates have won more than 20 court victories around the country since the Supreme Court ordered the U.S. government to recognize state-sanctioned gay marriages.