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Judges blast gay-marriage bans

Published August 26, 2014 6:02 pm

Gay rights • Parallel drawn to old U.S. law on interracial unions.
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Chicago • Federal appeals judges bristled on Tuesday at arguments defending gay-marriage bans in Indiana and Wisconsin, and one Republican appointee compared them to 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.

Richard Posner, who was appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1981, hit the backers of the ban the hardest. He balked when Wisconsin Assistant Attorney General Timothy Samuelson repeatedly pointed to "tradition" as the underlying justification for barring gay marriage.

"It was tradition to not allow blacks and whites to marry — a tradition that got swept away," the 75-year-old judge said. Prohibition of same sex marriage, Posner said, derives from "a tradition of hate ... and savage discrimination" of homosexuals.

Attorneys general in both states asked the 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 appeal in Chicago. Gay marriage is legal in 19 states as well as the District of Columbia. The Supreme Court has yet to take up a case, but Utah and Oklahoma's cases were appealed to the high court and Virginia's attorney general also has asked the justices to weigh in.