Federal court in Denver to hear two challenges to state marriage laws

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Photo: gay marriage - hands (istock)Over the next two weeks, a federal appeals court in Denver will hear challenges to state marriage laws from Utah and Oklahoma.

The two hearings kick off what the New York Times has termed the “marriage spring” -- a wave of hearings on the subject taking place in circuit courts across the country.

Ned Flaherty curates news and produces research about LGBT rights for Marriage Equality USA, an advocacy group trying to legalize same-sex marriage. Flaherty tracks every gay marriage case in the country, and says that although it's impossible to know how the appeals court will rule, the track record for cases involving state marriage laws indicates that it will come down in favor of the plaintiffs appealing for the ability to marry in Utah and Oklahoma.

Flaherty has also earned a reputation for accurately predicting when states will legalize same-sex marriage. A year ago he predicted the next 12 states to legalize same-sex marriage. Today, eight of the 12 have done just that, and two more he predicts will soon. He sees Colorado changing its laws to allow same-sex marriage by 2016, either through one of the active court cases challenging Colorado's ban on same-sex marriage, or through a ballot initiative that year.

Ultimately, Eastman and Flaherty agree -- as do other legal scholars following the issue -- that one or more of the cases heard this spring will end up in the U.S. Supreme Court.