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Gay marriage rulings in Oklahoma, Utah build momentum in other states, legal experts say

BY BRADY MCCOMBS AND SEAN MURPHY
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

OKLAHOMA CITY -- In less than a month, two federal judges have struck down state bans on gay marriage for the same reason, concluding that they violate the Constitution's promise of equal treatment under the law.

Although that idea has been the heart of the gay marriage debate for years, the decisions in deeply conservative Oklahoma and Utah offer new momentum for litigants pressing the same argument in dozens of other cases across the country. And experts say the rulings could represent an emerging legal consensus that will carry the issue back to the Supreme Court.

The judge who issued Tuesday's decision in Oklahoma "isn't stepping out on his own," said Douglas NeJaime, a professor of law at the University of California, Irvine. "He's doing what a colleague in another court did not long ago."

The more judges who issue such rulings, the more authority other judges feel to render similar decisions, said NeJaime, who expects decisions soon from federal courts in Virginia and Pennsylvania.

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