DENVER - A three-judge panel appeared sharply divided during a hearing over whether to uphold a lower court's ruling that struck down Utah's ban on gay marriage.
The swing vote in the case appears to be Judge Jerome Holmes, who had pointed questions for both sides. He compared Utah's same-sex marriage ban to Virginia's ban on interracial marriages that was struck down by the Supreme Court in 1967.
But Holmes also challenged the plaintiff's attorneys to explain why the state's voters should be prevented from defining marriage the way they want.
Utah's lawyer said the state has the authority to define marriage in a traditional way even though other states have defined it differently.
Since then, eight federal judges have struck down gay marriage bans or ordered states to recognize same sex marriages from other states.
"Every one of the three judges clearly had read all of the material," said attorney Peggy Tomsic who argued against the ban. "And to have read 300-plus pages of our briefs, over 40 amicus briefs is just an incredible task."
The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals panel in Denver is reviewing a trial court judge's ruling that struck down Utah's gay marriage ban. A decision is not expected for several months.
"The questions they asked of us were the most relevant questions that you could ask," Tomsic added.
Legal experts expect the U.S. Supreme Court to have the final word on the matter.
"There are thousands of same-sex couples across this country that are affected by similar anti-gay laws and marriage discrimination laws," Derek Kitchen said outside the courthouse after the hearing. "I think I speak for a number of couples when I say that it's hard to hear people argue against us because we are loving and committed individuals that have committed one another emotionally, spiritually to our partners so it's a difficult thing to hear when they're arguing against us."
Arguments about Oklahoma's same sex marriage ban will also be heard in Denver next week, but it could be months before the judges issue a ruling.
"My gut feeling is that we are on the right side of history," Kitchen said. "Now we just need to wait for the decision to come down from the judges."