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Five Religious Faiths File 42-Page Brief Supporting Gay Marriage Bans in Utah and Oklahoma

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, National Association of Evangelicals, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention and Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod filed a 42-page amicus brief to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday arguing in support of Bans on gay marriage in Oklahoma and Utah.

LdsThe filers argued that they aren't against same-sex couples:

"Our faith communities bear no ill will toward same-sex couples, but rather have marriage-affirming religious beliefs that merge with both practical experience and sociological fact to convince us that retaining the husband-wife marriage definition is essential," the brief explains.

The AP adds:

The coalition struck back at the notion that opposing gay marriage makes one anti-gay, irrational or bigoted.

"The accusation is false and offensive," it says. "It is intended to suppress rational dialogue and democratic conversation, to win by insult and intimidation rather than by reason, experience, and fact."

...Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said Monday that religions will always be free to choose which marriages they perform.

But in a statement, Minter added that "the state cannot exclude any group of people from a fundamental right based on religious views held by some. Our society is strengthened when the law both supports all families and protects the freedoms of conscience and belief."

Download the full brief here (PDF).

Protesters Demanding Hearing of LGBT Non-Discrimination Bill Arrested at Utah Governor's Office

(twitter ben winslow)

A group of protesters barricaded Utah Governor Herbert's office this morning demanding SB100 be heard, and arrests have begun, reports FOX13 reporter Ben Winslow via Twitter.

SB100 is the LGBT non-discrimination bill which has broad public backing and which Senate Republicans last week said they would not consider until the 10th Circuit finished hearing the case related to same-sex marriage.

Sim Gill called out the Republicans in a Salt Lake Tribune op-ed published Saturday:

So now, an excuse — forgive me I don’t know how else to say it — is being sought out to compromise an issue of fairness under the guise of some litigation consequence. Again, here is a thought experiment. Say that the U.S. Supreme Court were to uphold Amendment 3. The communities that have ratified and supported the non-discrimination ordinances were not violating any laws of this state, and will not, even if Amendment 3 were upheld.

What it comes down to is the underlying doctrine, rationalization and the truth of an idea that people deserve equality, that fear should not be empowered in ways that discriminate against fellow human beings and citizens; that what is morally, ethically and legally wrong should not and cannot be sanctioned by us as a community.

This has nothing to do with gay marriages but everything to do with all of us ­— as representatives of a promise in democracy, as elected leaders whose responsibility is as equally binding and owed to every citizen of our community, not only those who elected them but to every citizen, even those with whom they may disagree.

The intellectual honesty of every elected official is to open the door of government to every citizen and to offer fairness and justice. To do otherwise is to abdicate the principles on which they took their oath.

Senate Republicans Kill LGBT Non-Discrimination Bill in Utah

Senate Republicans in Utah killed an LGBT non-discrimination bill on Wednesday afternoon that would have prohibited housing and employment bias against gays and lesbians, the Salt Lake Tribune reports:

SteveSenate leaders had said repeatedly they didn’t want to consider any bills affecting gay and lesbian issues while the state is appealing a federal judge’s ruling overturning Utah’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

Votes in the GOP caucus are supposed to be secret, but sources confirmed that [Sen. Steve Urquhart, R-St. George] was the only vote in favor of hearing the bill this session. Urquhart said Wednesday he didn’t ask leadership to take the vote.

The bill had "broad public backing" according to the paper.

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."

Utah State Senator Fights For LGBT Non-Discrimination Bill Amid Gay Marriage Ban Battle

While the future of marriage equality remains uncertain in the Beehive State as the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has yet to consider and rule on a lower court ruling that struck down the state's ban on same-sex marriage, one lawmaker is fighting to send a strong message about how Utah treats its LGBT brethren: "we don't discriminate against our fellow Utahans." 

SteveRepublican State Senator Steve Urquhart has, for the second year in a row, introduced a bill that would "bar discrimination based on sexual identity or orientation in housing and employment deals," according to the AP. Despite the fact that the bill has gained some ground since being backed by a Republican (it was previously introduced on four separate occasions by Democratic representatives), many Utah lawmakers are calling for a delay in consideration of any proposed legislation that could be impacted by the state's ongoing debacle surrounding same-sex marriage, which in the eyes of many, includes Senator Urquhart's bill. Urquhart, however, does not agree.

Referring to Judge Robert Shelby's ruling that struck down the state's ban on same-sex marriage, Urquhart said:

"I want to point out, that this issue, it was relevant before Shelby's decision," Urquhart said. "It will continue to be relevant no matter how the issue of same-sex marriage is resolved."

On Friday, Urquhart urged anyone supporting the bill to "come to the Capitol and let people know that this issue should be heard."

He then took a paper form used for members of the public to request meetings with lawmakers and wrote a message on the back urging his bill to be heard.

He taped it to the main doors of the Senate, and urged any supporters to do the same during the legislative session.

Eight other supporters in attendance posted similar messages on the door soon after.

Senate Chief of Staff Ric Cantrell said the messages will be allowed, but the door will be cleared off every few days and the messages saved.

Meanwhile, other bills have been proposed which actually would be impacted by the 10th Circuit's eventual ruling. Republican State Representative Merill Nelson has introduced legalisation that would allow Utah taxpayers do donate part of their tax refund to fight gay marriage. Another proposed law "would stipulate that religious officials do not have to perform marriages that violate their beliefs."

Utah and Oklahoma Marriage Equality Court Challenges: An Update

Earlier this month the ACLU sued the state of Utah on behalf of four gay couples married before the Supreme Court placed a stay on a lower court ruling striking down the state's ban. The suit was filed because Utah Governor Gary Herbert announced that the 1,300+ marriages would be "on hold" pending the appeal of that case and would not be recognized.

UtahThat case will now go to federal court, the Salt Lake Tribune reports:

The Utah Attorney General’s Office filed a notice on Tuesday, moving the case from the 3rd District Court in West Jordan to the U.S. District Court for Utah. The case has been assigned to Judge Dale A. Kimball.

...In the ACLU lawsuit, the plaintiffs want the court to declare valid any marriages that took place between Dec. 20 and Jan. 6, when the U.S. Supreme Court stayed the decision, even if Amendment 3 is eventually found to be constitutional.

And in the federal appellate court appeal of the ruling striking down the state's ban, arguments are set to be heard on April 10 by a three judge, randomly-assigned panel, which will also hear the case from Oklahoma:

The 10th Circuit has agreed to let the same panel handle an appeal from Oklahoma, where a lower court struck down a similar ban on same-sex marriage. The court also will allow amicus briefs to be filed jointly in the Utah and Oklahoma cases. The appellate court has set an expedited briefing schedule for Oklahoma, with the last filings due April 7. The last filings in the Utah case are due March 4.


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