Utah’s ban on same sex-marriage is on its last legs
January 7, 2014
Change doesn’t come easily. If it did, there would have been no need for a Civil War, the Freedom Riders could have stayed home with their families and we wouldn’t still be talking about glass ceilings. Unfortunately, progress comes in fits and starts.
Monday’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to (at least temporarily) uphold Utah’s ban on same-sex marriages was a disappointing setback. It was undoubtedly especially heartbreaking for the same-sex couples who were married during the brief time the ban was lifted by U.S. District Court Judge Robert Shelby.
Though the core of their commitments to one another cannot be diminished by a judge even a supreme one those couples are, once again, facing legal and financial uncertainties that were settled long ago for their heterosexual counterparts.
But they should not be totally disheartened. Though it was surprising that the U.S. Supreme Court approved Utah’s request for a stay, it is unlikely to stand for long.
Looking at the bigger picture, the march toward true equality, for all citizens regardless of race or gender, often follows a painful pattern — two steps forward, one step back. In 2013, gender equality took two enormous steps forward, first the Supreme Court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Then, in December, Judge Shelby declared Utah’s ban on same sex marriage unconstitutional.
overturning DOMA, the court made same-sex partners eligible for many federal benefits currently offered to spouses. In so doing the court also paved the way for same sex partners to marry.
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Utah is now poised to spend millions of dollars trying to defend the indefensible that marriage can only be defined as a union between a man and a woman. What the state’s recalcitrant leaders can’t seem to comprehend was the mad rush of joyous same-sex couples and their families who flooded the state’s county courthouses the day the bigoted ban was scrapped, and the fact that all they wanted was a chance to be recognized as legitimate partners with the same security and protections offered to legally married spouses.
Hopefully, the Supreme Court, after an expedited review, will support Judge Shelby’s well-reasoned assessment that Utah’s ban is indeed a form of bigotry, and should be consigned to the history books alongside the sad chapters about slavery, racism and gender inequality.
In the meantime, Summit County should take pride in the role it played, if only briefly, in offering 40 same-sex couples an unexpected and wonderful opportunity to exchange their vows.
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