Utah’s same-sex marriage ban overturned
December 21, 2013
Utah’s same-sex marriage ban was struck down Friday by U.S. District Court judge Robert J. Shelby, making it – for now – the 18th state that permits such marriages.
Many Utahn same-sex couples rushed out and were officially married within hours of the decision. And that rush might have been prescient, as the state attorney general’s office is seeking 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.
The Salt Lake County clerk immediately began issuing marriage certificates to same-sex couples Friday afternoon at the counsel of Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill, according to a report in The Salt Lake Tribune.
When The Park Record reached the Summit County Clerk, Kent H. Jones, Friday afternoon, he was not sure whether he should be issuing same-sex marriage licenses. He said that he is awaiting word from the Lt. Governor’s office on the matter. He will, however, be in his office Monday morning, so any same-sex couples in the county who want to get married can check in with Jones at that time.
The Utah ban 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.
Utah Governor Gary Herbert indicated that the popular-vote aspect of Utah’s ban is a reason it should not be overturned.
"I am very disappointed an activist federal judge is attempting to override the will of the people of Utah," the Governor said. "I am working with my legal counsel and the acting Attorney General to determine the best course to defend traditional marriage within the borders of Utah."
Judge Shelby addressed that "will of the people" issue in his decision:
"[T]he legal issues presented in this lawsuit do not depend on whether Utah’s laws were the result of its legislature or a referendum, or whether the laws passed by the widest or smallest of margins," he wrote. "The question presented here depends instead on the Constitution itself, and on the interpretation of that document contained in binding precedent from the Supreme Court and the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals."
"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.