A federal appeals court on Thursday upheld anti-gay marriage laws in four states, a departure from recent court decisions that struck down similar bans.
The conflict increases the likelihood the Supreme Court will settle the issue once and for all, as advocates on both sides of the debate and 32 states have pressed it to do.
A three-judge panel of the Cincinnati-based-6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 to keep gay marriage bans or restrictions in Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee.
Judge Jeffrey Sutton, in writing the majority opinion, suggested his court wasn’t the proper venue to settle the issue.
“Our judicial commissions did not come with such a sweeping grant of authority, one that would allow just three of us — just two of us in truth — to make such a vital policy call for the thirty-two million citizens who live within the four States of the Sixth Circuit,” Sutton wrote.
The Michigan and Kentucky cases stem from lower court rulings that struck down each state’s gay marriage bans. Ohio’s two cases deal only with the state’s recognition of out-of-state gay marriages, while Tennessee’s is narrowly focused on the rights of three same-sex couples.