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Judges weigh gay marriage cases from four states

CINCINNATI - Judges Martha Craig Daughtrey and Deborah L. Cook made it clear fairly quickly they stood on opposite sides of the same-sex marriage debate. Their colleague, Judge Jeffrey S. Sutton, however, gave fewer hints as to where he may come down when the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals decides the fate of gay marriage bans in four states.

The cases heard Wednesday pit states' rights and conservative values against what plaintiffs' attorneys say is a right to marry under the U.S. Constitution.

If the 6th Circuit decides against gay marriage, it would create a divide among federal appeals courts and put pressure on the U.S. Supreme Court to settle the issue during its 2015 session. The appeals panel did not indicate when it would rule.

Daughtrey's comments and questions Wednesday displayed bewilderment at arguments for upholding the laws and Cook several times stepped in to make the point for the states' more clearly than their attorneys. Sutton showed skepticism as gay couples from Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee pushed to require their states to recognize their marriages elsewhere or allow them to be married in their home states. He also repeatedly pressed attorneys for the states on the logic behind their arguments.

Attorneys for the same-sex couples focused heavily on two main points: the discriminatory nature of the laws and the slow pace and expense of changing state constitutions as well as the federal Constitution.

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