State Of Utah Files Brief Against Same-Sex Marriage, Says The Issue Is ‘Child-Centered’

The state of Utah filed a formal brief against same-sex marriage before the 10th Circuit late Monday evening, and the message they have put across is all about the children. The brief claimed that marriage is "principally a child-centered institution" rather than one aimed at fulfilling "the emotional interests of adults."

UtahThe brief was written by seven attorneys, and now representation for the three same-sex couples challenging the state's ban on gay marriage have until February 25th to file their response brief. Oral arguments in the case will begin on April 10th.

The Salt Lake Tribune reports:

"Marriage between the man and woman who create a child provides that essential link," the state said, and encourages those parents to set aside their own personal desires for the benefit of their children.

"The district court’s ruling rests on a very different understanding of the principal public purpose and meaning of marriage — one centered on accommodating adult relationship choices," the state said.

But Utah has "steadfastly" reserved social recognition of marriage for man-woman marriage "so as to guide as many procreative couples as possible into the optimal, conjugal childrearing model."

"While other jurisdictions may choose to elevate adult-centric relationships, Utah has chosen a different course," the state said.

Utah’s marriage laws signal "all would-be parents that the state want them to do their best to ensure that any children they conceive are raised by their biological mother and father within a stable marital union."

RobertshelbyThe state also argued against the December 20th decision by district court judge Robert Shelby (right), in which he overturned the state ban on same-sex marriage, claiming that Shelby misinterpreted legal precedent and was incorrect to label marriage for same-sex couples a fundamental right, among other problems.

Utah "has good reason to fear that a judge-imposed redefinition — and the changes to the public meaning of marriage such a redefinition would entail — would over time weaken its marriage tradition enough to reduce its fertility rate, perhaps even below the replacement rate," the state said.

The laws governing marriage do not interfere with the ability of same-sex couples to enter committed, loving relationships or to raise children together, the state argues.

Instead, they "encourage a familial structure that has served society for thousands of years as the ideal setting for raising children. Nothing in the federal Constitution prevents Utah’s citizens from making that choice."


  1. Alex Parrish says

    Bla-bla-bla. This argument might mean something when Utah withholds full marriage rights until a couple conceives a child. When they issue training-permits or civil-partnerships to all couples until a birth occurs. When childless marriages are dissolved by the state. This is such an absurd argument I cannot even believe that adults are offering it as a serious argument. Fail.

  2. jamal49 says

    No, marriage is not a “child-centered institution” and it is an argument that won’t even get out of the starting gate. Such an argument would invalidate any heterosexual marriage that does not produce children. One hopes that the rebuttals to this argument include a very pointed and informed history of marriage throughout the centuries and as practised in different cultures. In western culture, marriage has been traditionally about the acquisition of property and the protection and inheritance rights of that property. It has never had anything to do with children.

  3. SFshawn says

    So since polygamy is legal in Utah. Which ONE husband and which ONE wife are we talking about you stupid Morons…Mormons.
    Do as I say not as I do much?
    Is Utah really a state or just a bunch of religious zealots telling everyone else how to live?

  4. Ben in Oakland says

    “The laws governing marriage do not interfere with the ability of same-sex couples to enter committed, loving relationships or to raise children together, the state argues.”

    Can they really be claiming that marriage is child centered, and then say this?

  5. Maddog says

    It could be because most Mormons believe that raising a family is woman’s work and paying the bills is a man’s responsibility. If there are two men, who will care for the children? Is there are two women, how will they earn an income?

  6. WOLF says

    @SFSHAWN, One of the conditions for granting Utah statehood was that a ban on polygamy be written into the state constitution. This was a condition required of other western states that were admitted into the Union later.

  7. oncemorewithfeeling says

    There are no rational arguments against marriage equality, but is Utah even trying to make one?

    Do they really not know how many different ways people have children now? Adoption, fostering, surrogates, fertility treatments, egg donors, sperm donors — even if marriage was about children, which it very clearly is not, why should only a fertile man and a fertile woman who produce biological offspring be given legal superiority over every other kind of family?

  8. Randy says

    Steadfast?! Utah was an adult male playground prior to admission to the union.

    Even if we accept their argument, they cannot begin by pretending there are no gay kids who need role models, and they cannot pretend they are no children of gay parents.

    If they win, it will simply indicate bias on the court.

  9. Tigernan says

    They are never, ever going to quit trying to get something legally in place that says that their marriages are real and ours are not. Until every last one of them drops dead.

  10. Gregory In Seattle says

    Then the Utah legislature should make procreation a mandatory requirement for marriage: either squirt out young ones naturally (adoption is not permitted) within three years, or your marriage is annulled by court order for failure to fulfill the purpose of marriage.

    Oh, wait, that would be discriminatory against straight couples that cannot or will not have children? Too bad: if the “reasoning” applies to same-sex couples, then it should apply to different sex couples, too.

  11. anon says

    If it’s all about the children and not the emotional state of the parents then the train left the station when states allowed couples to divorce before the children were 18 (or 21 in the old days). Not only would the 10th have to ban gay marriage (which could help with child raising btw) but also divorce involving young children. I don’t see that happening. Perhaps Utah is hoping to lose?

  12. says

    “Child-Centered”? Dear Utah Mormons, how’s your suicide rate for males between 13-30 doing, eh?

    if they follow through and ban infertile heterosexuals from marrying, they’ll at least be consistent 😀

  13. SFshawn says

    @Wolf, According to Wikipedia “Overall in Utah today, those living in Polygamist families number 40,000 people. The practice of these ARRANGED marriages often involves placing young girls with older men. The Polygamist avoid prosecution because many only seek marriage licenses for their FIRST marriage, while the other marriages are SECRETLY conducted in private ceremonies. Thereafter, secondary wives attempt to be seen in public as single women with children.”

  14. RK says

    What a weak argument – will not hold up under scrutiny. And it always cracks me when these homophobes act like gay people cannot or do not have children. Isnt’t there a recent report that many gay people are now having children in stable marriages? Such BS on their part.

  15. RK says

    What a weak argument – will not hold up under scrutiny. And it always cracks me when these homophobes act like gay people cannot or do not have children. Isnt’t there a recent report that many gay people are now having children in stable marriages? Such BS on their part.

  16. Rob says

    Yeah! And how did that argument work for ya in the past? Is that all you have is a discredited biased survey cooked up and funded by the Witherspoon Institute? Should be an easy ruling.

  17. Hey Darlin' says

    The only link between same sex marriage and children is the gay children who wish to one day have the protections marriage was created to insure.

    Where children are concerned, LGBT citizens aren’t just fighting for our rights today, we are fighting to insure ALL LGBT children of the future have the equality they are promised in the US constitution. Equality to the non-LGBT children the ones who won’t be affected at all by their neighbor having equality, even their Utah neighbors.

  18. Hey Darlin' says

    We would be doing a great disservice to the LGBT children of tomorrow to allow them to be discriminated against. We are all to aware of the effects, having been subject to the discrimination of our thoughtful neighbors who wish to protect “the children”.

  19. JJ says

    @SFSHAWN, from the Utah Constitution:

    Article 3. The following ordinance shall be irrevocable without the consent of the United States and the people of this State:
    [Religious toleration — Polygamy forbidden.]
    First: — Perfect toleration of religious sentiment is guaranteed. No inhabitant of this State shall ever be molested in person or property on account of his or her mode of religious worship; but polygamous or plural marriages are forever prohibited.

  20. Hey Darlin' says

    “But Utah has ‘steadfastly’ reserved social recognition of marriage for man-woman marriage ‘so as to guide as many procreative couples as possible into the optimal, conjugal childrearing model.'”

    The children forgotten in orphanages weep for a home with the protections that only a marriage can provide and would love the opportunity to go home with a married same sex couple who would provide the loving home the opposite sex couple currently has but won’t share with them.

    The children in loving single parent homes weep that the state of Utah has labeled them as a secondary standard that isn’t deemed optimal in the eyes of whom exactly.

    The analogy that only opposite sex married couples provide a loving home to children does a terrible disservice to the pre-existing children that are not mentioned at all because they don’t fall within the margins of your argument relating optimal children to marriage.

  21. Wayne says

    As a 74 y/o hetero male married to the same lady for 51 years and the father of 6 great kids, I can state that Utah is full of crap. I have been to many Christian marriages and attended many Mormon marriages in Utah, where we have close friends. I have never heard any mention of children in the vows exchanged between the couples, nor any vows of providing them with “optimal environments”. In fact, Utah permits adoption by single people and has an easy avenue to divorce (“irreconcilable differences”).Utah’s brief, which I have read, is also an affront to straight people everywhere!

  22. Bernie says

    and, I say good luck with that!!! Their arguments are so thin, you can see right through them…….the child centered argument makes no sense as children should not be in the marriage equality argument………..

  23. says

    Conservative blogs are glowing about this ‘brilliant’ brief. Kid you not.

    We’ve seen this same rhetoric used thousands of times so to us it’s blatantly obvious that this is not only discriminatory against LGBT families but also all other non-traditional families. Divorced, single parent, extended family, adoptive. What else can they do? They’ve exhausted every line of debate. They have nothing. It’s this or throw in the towel. I’d like to see plaintiffs counsel turn this argument (protecting children) around and challenge state lawyers with ‘what about the children of same sex couples?’ Are they the sacrifice you’re willing to make by asking the state to deny their families equality under law? You want to profit one specific subset of children (from married hetero) at the direct expense of all others?

    One aspect of this brief I want to see the courts address is that they’ve chosen to challenge Judge Shelby’s finding that same sex marriage is a fundamental right (‘Marriage is marriage’ not hetero, not AA, not interracial, not SS). Are our families entitled to participate in the institution of marriage as full citizens with guarantees of equal protection or if not, how/why does the state get to tell a minority group that it is excluded from an institution that SCOTUS has declared a fundamental right 14 times?

    One aspect of Shelby’s ruling that they’ve completely ignored is that fundamental rights are not subject to popular vote. And that no other aspect of state policy on marriage was ever put up for popular vote.

  24. Jexer says

    quote: “so as to guide as many procreative couples as possible into the optimal, conjugal childrearing model.”

    translation: “so as to guide gay men and women (who want to have children) into unhappy, loveless and ultimately unstable hetero-marriages.”

  25. Bill says

    If the state of Utah’s attorneys were honest, they would have said that “Utah has steadfastly reserved marriage to be between two individuals ever since Congress made it sufficiently clear that Utah would not become a state unless it renounced polygamy.”

  26. TonyJazz says

    This won’t affect one child to speak of (other than the possibility of progressive people in Utah leaving with their kids if this bigotry is allowed to continue by the courts…).

  27. SpaceCadet says

    So dumb and such an unoriginal argument that they keep losing with. How does banning gay marriage promote straight married couples to rear children? Where is the logic? Why don’t they just have an advertising campaign promoting having babies? Why don’t they ban divorce? Why do they keep taking a dump on adopted kids as if they are somehow less valued than kids raises by biological patents? Geez!

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