Landmark decision takes immediate effect
December 24, 2013
Utah’s same-sex marriage ban was struck down Friday afternoon by U.S. District Court Judge Robert J. Shelby, making Utah the 18th state that permits such marriages.
Shelby ruled that the Utah ban was in violation of the due process and equal protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution.
"The State’s current laws deny its gay and lesbian citizens their fundamental right to marry and, in so doing, demean the dignity of these same-sex couples for no rational reason. Accordingly, the court finds that these laws are unconstitutional," Shelby ruled.
Within hours of that ruling being issued, Utahn same-sex couples were being wed by the Salt Lake County clerk.
The state attorney general’s office immediately moved for an emergency stay on the ruling, in which case the ban would go back into effect while the decision is appealed to a higher court.
When contacted Friday, Summit County Clerk Kent Jones said he was consulting with the county attorney and did not know if his office would be issuing same-sex marriages certificates when it opened Monday.
But Sunday evening he told The Park Record that after reviewing the judge’s ruling he believed the judge’s clear intent was to overturn the ban. "I intend to obey the law," he said, adding that the office would open at 8 a.m. to begin issuing marriage certificates.
One of those who showed up to be married Monday morning said she was surprised and pleased the clerk had responded to her email Sunday night asking whether the office would be open. "He went way above and beyond," said Dee Jost, who drove up from Salt Lake City to ensure she and her partner would be married before a possible stay was enacted sometime Monday. Jones said he received numerous inquiries throughout the weekend. "I tried to answer them all," he said.
Not all counties in Utah were acting like Summit. In Cache County, for instance, the county clerk’s office was closed Monday "until further notice," according to a statement the county issued. The county said it needed time "to sort out the legal issues and confusion created in the wake of Judge Shelby’s opinion."
On Monday Judge Shelby denied the state’s stay request after hearing arguments earlier in the morning. That decision effectively meant that the new status quo in Utah is that same-sex marriage is legal.
The state is continuing the fight to restrict marriage in Utah to opposite-sex couples and has appealed the district court’s decision to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, Colo., The Salt Lake Tribune reported Monday afternoon.
The Utah ban on same-sex marriage, known as Amendment 3, was passed via a popular-vote referendum in 2004 with the support of 66 percent of voters. In Summit County, 61 percent voted against the ban Summit and Grand counties were the only two counties in the state to vote against it.
"The State of Utah has provided no evidence that opposite-sex marriage will be affected in any way by same-sex marriage," Judge Shelby wrote at the conclusion of his landmark Friday decision. "In the absence of such evidence, the State’s unsupported fears and speculations are insufficient to justify the State’s refusal to dignify the family relationships of its gay and lesbian citizens."