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04/19/2007


Proposed Bill Would Let Utah Taxpayers Donate Part of Refund to Fight Gay Marriage

Utah Rep. Merrill Nelson, R-Grantsville, has introduced a bill that would allow taxpayers to check a box and donate part of their income tax refund to fund the state's battle against gay marriage, the Salt Lake Tribune reports:

NelsonHis HB48 would create a check-off on forms for a "Marriage Defense Fund." It would also allow direct donations to the fund via cash, check or credit card — and would direct the state to conduct a marketing campaign to help raise money.

...

"I see it as a way to placate proponents of same-sex marriage who have complained about the cost" to taxpayers for the state’s ongoing appeals to defend Amendment 3, said Nelson, an attorney for Kirton McConkie, whose clients include the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. "I see it as a peacekeeping measure.... I see this as a way to placate both sides."

He added, "I’ve had several individuals and groups tell me they would like to donate to the cause. It’s a way for them to show their support." Besides the tax form check-off, the bill would allow direct contributions to the fund by "cash, credit card or check."

The state of Utah is facing two lawsuits. The first is the appeal before the 10th Circuit of a lower court's ruling striking down the state's ban on same-sex marriage, and the second is one brought by the ACLU against the state for putting "on hold" marriages that were performed before the U.S. Supreme Court put a stay on the ruling in the first case.


ACLU Sues Utah Over Governor's Refusal to Recognize Same-Sex Marriages

HerbertThe ACLU is suing 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. Shortly thereafter, 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.

The ACLU:

“These couples were legally married under Utah law and their unions must be treated the same as any other Utah marriage,” said John Mejia, legal director of the ACLU of Utah. “Even our attorney general said that the marriages were entitled to full recognition by the state at the time they were performed.  Regardless of what ultimately happens in the federal challenge to Utah’s marriage ban, the marriages that already occurred are valid and must be recognized now.”

 The lawsuit argues that once same-sex couples are legally married in Utah, they gain protections that cannot retroactively be taken away under the due process clauses of the Utah and United States Constitution.

 Some couples not only wanted to get married to demonstrate their commitment to each other, but also to ensure protection for their children. As a married couple, each parent can establish a legal connection to their children even if they’re not the biological parent or previously recognized adoptive parent. Otherwise, Utah law allows single parents to adopt, but forbids an unmarried partner from being recognized as a parent to the other’s biological or already-adopted children, which could have devastating legal implications.

 “We acted as soon as we could to make sure our family could stay together in case, heaven forbid, something happens to one of us,” said Matthew Barrazza, who is the adopted father of Jesse, the son he is raising with his husband Tony Milner. Milner currently is not recognized as their son’s parent. “We just want the peace of mind of knowing that whatever happens, Jesse has security of knowing his other parent will take care of and provide for him. Now, because the state refuses to recognize our marriage, this peace of mind is again out of reach.”

 Their adoption process is on hold because of the state’s refusal to recognize their marriage. Other couples worry that they will lose the ability to make decisions for each other or care for each other if one of them is hospitalized.

 "The state has reduced these unions to second-class marriages," said Erik Strindberg of the firm Strindberg & Scholnick, LLC. "It is imperative that these marriages be recognized now, so that these couples and their families can receive the protections given to all other legally married couples in this great state."

Read the complaint HERE.


Overstock.com Exec Says Churches Must Be Protected from Gays

The Deseret News came out with a weekend poll (jointly with KSL) that says 57 percent of Utahns oppose same-sex marriage and 36 percent support it. The poll also showed that 72 percent want places of worship protected from having to perform same-sex marriages.

J_johnsonOne business leader with a particularly strong opinion a high-ranking exec at Overstock.com.

The Deseret News reports:

Jonathan Johnson, executive vice chairman of the online retailer Overstock.com and founder of the First Freedom PAC, said it's shocking to him that some people think churches don't need protection. He started the political action committee to combat what he sees as an assault on the First Amendment and to preserve the role of churches and religious associations in society.

"It makes me feel like if a same-gender couple goes to an orthodox Jewish rabbi and says, 'Marry us in your synagogue,' the 22 percent would say he has to say yes," he said.

"I'm surprised that anyone thinks that the government should force religions to do things," he said. "But because the religious liberties issue today is so tied to the same-sex marriage issue, I can see why it's a sore spot for people."

Looks like they're overstocked on bigotry in Utah.


Utah State Officials Want 10 Day Extension to File Opening Brief in Marriage Appeal; ACLU to Sue

Utah state officials are asking the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals for a ten day extension to file the opening brief of their appeal in the same-sex marriage case, Kitchen v. Herbert, Equality on Trial reports:

HerbertThe request was anticipated by some, since the opening brief is due in ten days, and the state only hired its outside counsel for the marriage litigation yesterday. The appeal is on a very fast track in the Tenth Circuit, and briefing was expected to be completed late next month. The Tenth Circuit has said that any request for extension of time “are very strongly discouraged, and will be considered only under extraordinary circumstances.”

Citing the “requirements of state procurement law,” the state says in its request that it could only hire counsel yesterday. The state adds that “the Clerk of the Court indicated to Plaintiffs and State Defendants that the Court is considering extending each of the existing briefing deadlines by 2 or 3 days” and that would mean that even with an extension of time to file an opening brief, only 7-8 days would be added to the briefing schedule.

UtahPlaintiffs in the case are opposing the request (PDF):

The State Defendants' Motion requesting an extension of time to file their opening brief fails even to mention the showing that Tenth Circuit Local Rule 27.4 requires for an extension of time to file a brief or the Court's previous order in this case that "[r]equests for extension of time are very strongly discouraged, and will be considered only under extraordinary circumstances." Dec. 30, 2013, Order [Dkt. No. 10136661] ("Scheduling Order") at 1-2 (emphasis added). There are no extraordinary circumstances here. Granting of the Motion will result in a schedule giving the State Defendants more time (by one day) to file their brief than is ordinarily provided under the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure. Such a result would run contrary to this Court's earlier determination that the briefing in this case should be expedited. ...

In related news, the ACLU of Utah plans to announce a lawsuit on Tuesday against the state for its decision not to recognize marriages of same-sex couples performed before the Supreme Court stay pending appeal of the above case.

The Deseret News reports:

The civil liberties organization started looking for plaintiffs on Jan. 8, the same day Gov. Gary Herbert's office issued a directive putting state recognition of gay and lesbian newlyweds "on hold," based on counsel from Attorney General Sean Reyes.


The Utah Ruling Hasn't Changed Mitt Romney's Mind on Gay Marriage

Mitt

Mitt Romney, who is at Sundance for the new Netflix documentary about him, was asked about the recent Utah ruling on same-sex marriage in a Washington Post Q&A:

I have the same position that I’ve had when I was governor and when I ran as president. I believe marriage should be between one man and one woman. We’ll see how the courts deal with this, but that’s the position I have and will continue to have.


Utah to Allow Joint Tax Filing for Married Gay Couples

The Utah State Tax Commission said on Thursday that gay couples legally married there or in any other state could file joint income tax returns, the Salt Lake Tribune reports:

UtahPreviously, the Utah Tax Commission had issued a policy statement saying it would not allow joint filing of state returns by gay or lesbian couples married legally in any other state. That was before a federal judge struck down Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage but after the Internal Revenue Service had announced it would allow joint filing by same-sex couples married legally anywhere, regardless of their state of residence.

The Utah tax agency did not immediately explain its reversal Thursday.

"Same-sex couples whose marriages were performed in Utah pursuant to the federal district court’s order between Dec. 20, 2013, and Dec. 31, 2013, or whose marriages were solemnized in other states before Dec. 31, 2013, may file individual State income returns as ‘married,’" said Charlie Roberts, spokesperson for the Tax Commission.

The decision applies only to 2013 taxes.


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