Gay Marriage | News | Utah

Federal Judge Strikes Down Utah's Gay Marriage Ban, Effectively Legalizes Gay Marriage


A federal judge in Utah has struck down the state's ban on same-sex marriage, declaring the ban violates both equal protection and due process, guarantees safeguarded in the U.S. Constitution, according to The Salt Lake Tribune:

"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," wrote U.S. District Court Judge Robert J. Shelby. "Accordingly, the court finds that these laws are unconstitutional."

Shelby’s ruling came just 16 days after he heard arguments in the case and well before his self-imposed deadline to render a decision by Jan. 7, when the next hearing in the matter was to be held.

Capitol"It feels unreal," said Moudi Sbeity, who with his partner Derek L. Kitchen were plaintiffs in the case. "I’m just very thrilled that Derek and I will be able to get married soon, if all goes well and the state doesn’t appeal. We want a farmer’s market wedding because it’s where we spend a lot of time."

Shelby said that while he agreed with Utah that marriage has traditionally been left to regulation by the states, such laws must comply with the Constitution.

"The issue the court must address in this case is not who should define marriage, but the narrow question of whether Utah’s current definition of marriage is permissible under the Constitution," the judge said.

Shelby acknowledged the politically charged climate that surrounds the issue and said that was particularly true in Utah, where 66 percent of voters approved the amendment banning same-sex marriage in 2004.

"It is only under exceptional circumstances that a court interferes with such action," Shelby said. "But the 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."

From Shannon Price Minter at The National Center for Lesbian Rights:

"This is the first decision since Perry--and the first after Windsor--striking down a marriage ban under the federal constitution. The judge did not stay his decision, so same-sex couples in Utah are applying for marriage licenses now."

Read the full decision AFTER THE JUMP...

(Photo via Twitter)


Utah Marriage Decision

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  1. Utah folks...UTAH! UTAH!.....WE WON!

    Take it to the supreme court by 2015 the latest. No reason to stall after that. Justice delayed is many LGBT folks gone before able to experience full equality.

    Posted by: Mike | Dec 20, 2013 6:20:13 PM

  2. Reading the Shelby ruling. Amazed at his clarity & scope. So many parts stand out ...

    Indeed, Amendment 3 went beyond denying gay and lesbian individuals the right to marry and held that no domestic union could be given the same or substantially equivalent legal effect as marriage. This wording suggests that the imposition of inequality was not merely the law’s effect, but its goal.

    Posted by: SERIOUSLY | Dec 20, 2013 6:42:42 PM

  3. Bravo, Utah! Bravo! Merry Xmas too all gay Utahans and their supporters. We're up to 18 states now! It's spreading like wildfire!

    Posted by: SpaceCadet | Dec 20, 2013 6:50:27 PM

  4. Agreed, @Seriously. It's a thrilling and surprisingly entertaining read. We loved the part where the judge says the state's basic argument, We just don't know, is not persuasive.

    Posted by: Ernie | Dec 20, 2013 6:50:44 PM

  5. Shelby ruling ...

    While Utah exercises the “unquestioned authority” to regulate and define marriage,
    , 133 S. Ct. at 2693,

    it must nevertheless do so in a way that does not infringe the constitutional rights of its citizens. See id. at 2692 (noting that the “incidents, benefits, and obligations of marriage” may vary from state to state but are still “subject to constitutional guarantees”).

    Posted by: SERIOUSLY | Dec 20, 2013 6:53:07 PM

  6. I'm happy for the couples in Utah who can now marry, but I'm not at all happy that this change is increasingly happening through court decisions rather than legislative bills and/or public referenda. I know that the former involves a quick win, but this isn't the same as a solid win accompanied by the important legitimacy that social change needs to become permanent. This is sure to inflame anti-gay sentiment even more - Utah being such a religious state should have been left for last. It has the furthest to travel in changing opinions and needed more time for its people to evolve. While gay couples marrying now is justice, provoking unnecessary backlashes that will be paid for by gay people of the future (some of whom are too young to be responsible for any of today's actions) is a huge INjustice.

    Unfortunately, I think this gives NOM a new lease on life. The gay rights movement had done unbelievably well in the last few years - winning legislative victories, gaining acceptance of stigmatizing homophobia, converting people from the opposition, etc.. But now it's starting to validate the right-wing claim that gays want a powerful Left-wing government to enforce liberal values and will hound out of the public forum anyone who holds views on homosexuality that were commonplace and non-controversial until 5 or 6 years ago (e.g the Robertson firing.) Many in mainstream America who were becoming more liberal and open-minded about sexual orientation will question whether the changes of the past few years have been a mistake.

    I hope I'm wrong.

    Posted by: Mary | Dec 20, 2013 6:54:26 PM

  7. Shelby wrote this as though it were for/from SCOTUS. Reminds me of Walkers ruling on Prop 8 but with more ammo.

    Remember immediately after SCOTUS ruled on DOMA when Brian Brown, NOM, & the hate groups were claiming 'victory' because there was no explicit language about same-sex marriage'?

    Seems like Judge Shelby read the same parts of Windsor that we did ... 'subject to constitutional guarantees'.

    Posted by: SERIOUSLY | Dec 20, 2013 7:03:00 PM

  8. @Mary, the concern troll, is concerned.

    Replace the topic with the judicial fiat on interracial marriage and see why you and your NOM friends are losing.

    Posted by: Troubletown | Dec 20, 2013 7:05:24 PM

  9. Mary as a racial minority...all I have to say to your concerns is...eff off!. If the courts had never intervened the only place I would be allowed in this contry is some field picking fruits for white people's tables...The bigots will have a coniption...then they will get on with their miserable lives. Justice delayed is justice denied. Again I sincerely say to you to f#ck off with your concern troll b.s.

    Posted by: pedro | Dec 20, 2013 7:20:18 PM

  10. Pedro, it's a question of how much can be done through the courts before the price for such victories is too high. Prices are not always immediately visible. Effective political strategy always involves planning to avert potential disasters and assessing which tactics will be the most effective long-term. Why can't you disagree without questioning my motives?

    Going more slowly on marriage equality by waiting for public referenda strikes me as the ideal strategy for two reasons. One, it gives the most reluctant segment of society time to adust to the changes. And second, each victory is all the sweeter because you can say to NOM "Sorry Brian, but the people in Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri, etc. HAVE spoken - and they voted for equality." But now NOM can cling to its "unelected judges" mantra and use it to drum up more support. I believe that seeing the other side give up is more important than getting gay couples in non-equality states the right to marry soon. It's a question of what gets us to a truly pro-equality society as opposed to an artificially forced one.

    Posted by: Mary | Dec 20, 2013 7:48:09 PM

  11. Judge Robert J Shelby was appointed a federal judge in this district over Utah by none other than Barrack Obama.

    I am a religious conservative and yes I hope the people of Utah rise up against this blatant attack on our values.

    This social and psychiatric experiment is disgusting.

    Posted by: Johnny | Dec 20, 2013 7:52:42 PM

  12. Can you at the very least have the decency to not throw wet blankets on a moment of celebration? The ink is barely dry on Shelby's ruling and here you are offering excuses (yet again) why we should temper justice and measure it to fit a comfort standard for our oppressors.

    Support for marriage equality is growing exactly because we've taken on every challenger to equality from bigoted cake baker to heads of governments worldwide and exposed their lies and prejudices for what they really are.

    If you want bowing down and chest bashing in woe and worry about what might happen because of hard won justice then go to GOProud or one of the hate sites.

    Posted by: SERIOUSLY | Dec 20, 2013 7:59:46 PM

  13. Support for marriage equality isn't really growing in Utah, though. Only about 30% support in Utah. And less than 20% with Mormons. So that's what makes this ruling all the more special, to me. Yes, support nationally is growing, but lets be honest, a lot of states still do not support. But equality is coming to their backyards, like it or not.

    Posted by: Francis | Dec 20, 2013 8:10:26 PM

  14. Mary, there is such a thing as an "avalanche" win in politics, where the victory is so comprehensive the opponents can't organize a response. It hasn't happened yet, but if you think about it, where are they going to focus their resources now? They've just lost New Jersey, New Mexico and Utah within 60 days and Illinois is up for grabs. If you look at where they are focusing now, it's in Indiana, which is a rearguard action. If a few more states change sides how are they going to organize a response?

    Posted by: anon | Dec 20, 2013 8:12:19 PM

  15. @Mary, you keep predicting that this and that will give NOM a new lease on life, and you've been wrong every time.

    Constitutions matter in the USA. Judges who rule in accordance with the Constitution are not artificially forcing anything; they're doing exactly what they're supposed to do. If it were left to you, Loving v Virginia would never have happened, or would have happened decades after it did. Your civil rights philosophy is quite un-American. Stop typing and read the decision. It tells you all you need to know.

    @Johnny: You can't rise up against the Constitution, however religiously conservative you may be.

    Posted by: Ernie | Dec 20, 2013 8:26:53 PM

  16. POF Francis
    Marriage Equality support in Utah is at 30%, what was it in 2004? In 2008? Wow! Growing.
    Utah support for equality (not called marriage) is at 60% Also growing.
    Non Mormons support 63% ... one of the highest in the country, and growing.

    Posted by: SERIOUSLY | Dec 20, 2013 8:29:08 PM

  17. Hope this link works.

    Married gay couple in Utah.

    Posted by: SERIOUSLY | Dec 20, 2013 8:38:30 PM

  18. Mary, you've got it backwards. The court decisions that are happening now are the measured, long-coming backlash against those who rushed to enact discrimination into law. This has been long predicted from the very beginning. The ideal strategy for your co-haters would have been to first--years ago--patiently undertake the long, necessary process of amending the Constitution to remove its guantee of equality. Now it's too late, and without those amendments the more reluctant segments of society aren't entitled to time to adjust to the changes at the expense of someone else's rights.

    Posted by: JJ | Dec 20, 2013 9:25:54 PM

  19. Personally, I particularly enjoyed the section of the opinion that suggested that, under the old law and constitutional prohibition, gay couples had their Second Amendment rights to bear arms but were prohibited from buying bullets. Is that an old, often-used quote, or was that new?

    Posted by: SteveInSRQ | Dec 20, 2013 9:48:01 PM

  20. Thank you, Troubletown. It really is delightful to read Scalia's words quoted in the decision. I can just see the smoke coming out of his fat little bigoted Catholic ears. Way to go, Judge Shelby.

    Posted by: Richard | Dec 20, 2013 11:25:38 PM

  21. Marriage equality support, well, in 2004, a marriage ban passed in the state with 66% support. So numbers today aren't much different than the results then, 10 years ago @seriously. Civil union support is up, and that's great, it shows that even in Utah, most do believe in some form of equality and recognition, but when it comes to marriage, most Utahans are not there.

    JJ is right. Mary, you right-wingers had the chance to pass a constitutional amendment banning same-sex equality. You didn't take it. When Hawaii essentially ruled that there was no basis to ban marriage equality, in 93, your side panicked and passed all sorts of hate laws. DOMA, state bans. It was a band-aid. The band-aid has been ripped off. Equality is here, who cares whether the populous in some of these states agree with that or not? There have been threats of backlash for years. It's not going to come.

    Posted by: Francis | Dec 20, 2013 11:28:55 PM

  22. What a beautiful Christmas gift.

    Posted by: Randy | Dec 21, 2013 12:16:13 AM

  23. I do encourage reading the entire ruling.

    It shows how important the Prop 8 and DOMA cases were, citing them both.

    Also, you don't want to miss things like this: "The State’s prohibition of the Plaintiffs’ right to choose a same-sex marriage partner renders their fundamental right to marry as meaningless as if the State recognized the Plaintiffs’ right to bear arms but not their right to buy bullets."

    Posted by: Randy | Dec 21, 2013 1:03:16 AM

  24. "But heterosexual individuals are as likely to exercise their purported right to same-sex marriage as gay men and lesbians are to exercise their purported right to opposite-sex marriage."


    Posted by: Randy | Dec 21, 2013 1:14:28 AM

  25. The laws and amendment are struck down " the extent these laws prohibit a person from marrying another person of the same sex."

    I'm assuming this is a reference to 30-1-2, which includes a list of several kinds of marriages that are not valid in Utah, with part (5) being same-sex.

    Regarding the other law and the amendment, it may also mean that the state can continue to ban civil unions, domestic partnerships, and so on, perhaps even only for same-sex couples.

    Posted by: Randy | Dec 21, 2013 2:09:16 AM

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