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CINCINNATI — The march toward gay marriage across the U.S. hit a roadblock Thursday when a federal appeals court upheld laws against the practice in four states, creating a split in the legal system that increases the chances the Supreme Court will step in to decide the issue once and for all.

The cases decided were from Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee.

Breaking ranks with other federal courts around the country, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that states have the right to set rules for marriage and that changing a definition that dates to "the earliest days of human history" is better done through the political process, not the courts.

"Surely the people should receive some deference in deciding when the time is ripe to move from one picture of marriage to another," said Circuit Judge Jeffrey Sutton, writing for himself and a fellow George W. Bush appointee, while a Bill Clinton appointee dissented.

The ruling ran counter to a remarkably rapid string of victories for the gay rights movement over the past few months that have now made same-sex marriage legal in at least 30 states.

In fact, four other U.S. appeals courts in other regions of the country ruled in recent months that states cannot ban gay matrimony.


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