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Same judges to hear Utah, Oklahoma same-sex marriage appeals

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has agreed to let the same trio of judges hear same-sex marriage cases on appeal from Utah and Oklahoma.

The court also agreed Tuesday that it will allow amicus briefs to be filed jointly in the cases from the two states, though the cases will have separate filing and oral argument schedules.

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As in the Utah case, the court has set up an expedited briefing schedule for Oklahoma, with last filings due April 7. The last filings in the Utah case are due March 4.

The court has not yet set dates for oral arguments. A panel of judges will be assigned 10 days before the oral argument hearings, which is standard procedure.

Attorneys for the Tulsa County court clerk, who is appealing an Oklahoma judge’s Jan. 17 decision legalizing same-sex marriage, said they would not be able to comply with the schedule set for Utah and thus asked that the cases not be consolidated. But, placing the Oklahoma case on an expedited track ensures "the resolution of the Kitchen appeal [the Utah case] will not be materially delayed and, as a result, that no parties will be prejudiced by the relief requested in this motion," they said.

Having the same panel hear the appeals also minimizes "the risk of inconsistent Tenth Circuit precedent," attorneys in the Oklahoma case said in a court filing.

The Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group of the U.S. House of Representatives has filed as an intervenor in the Oklahoma case; it was a defendant in the case early on.

Peggy Tomsic, a Salt Lake City attorney representing three same-sex couples who challenged Utah’s ban on gay marriage, said the move by the 10th Circuit shows it recognizes the importance of allowing the cases to move forward without delay.

"Every day these discriminatory laws remain in effect, families in Utah and Oklahoma are being destabilized and harmed," she said. "We look forward to the day these divisive and harmful laws are permanently struck down, and all families have the same acceptance and protection under the law."

— Brooke Adams

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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