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Same-sex marriage (SSM) in Utah:

Part 3

More reactions to the District Court's ruling that
at least temporarily legalized same-sex marriage.
Case appealed. Multiple state requests for stays
rejected.

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This topic is continued from the previous essay.

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Reactions to the District Court's ruling (Cont'd):

John Mejia, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah said:

"We think that it was a discriminatory law that only served to deny loving and committed couples the protection[s] and dignity of marriage. We congratulate the brave plaintiffs for making such a historic stand and their legal team for putting up such a great fight."

Cliff Rosky, a University of Utah law professor and chairman of the board for Equality Utah, said:

"We are thrilled that our federal courts have finally recognized that Utah’s Amendment 3 is unconstitutional. It demeans the dignity of gay relationships. [The ruling] is cautious and thoughtful, based explicitly on the Supreme Court’s ruling from this summer. I fully expect it to be upheld on appeal. When that happens, people will soon enjoy the freedom to marry in Utah and all 50 states."

Utah Democratic Party Chairman Jim Dabakis, who is openly gay, said:

"What we need to do is a little hand holding with Utahns of a certain generation who really don’t understand that there is no need to feel threatened by gay people, that we are just like everybody else.

I don’t believe any religion should be coerced into performing a marriage they are not comfortable with and conversely no religion should be able to take away a civil right that should be available across the country."

He also said there needs to be a recognition that civil marriages and religious marriages are not necessarily the same thing.

No faith group will ever be required to marry any same-sex couple in Utah or the District of Columbia, or in any other other 49 states in the U.S. The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution requires the separation of church and state, This guarantees clergy and congregations the right to refuse to marry couples for any reason.

On DEC-20, Dabakis took this opportunity to marry his longtime partner in Utah. 1

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2013-DEC-22: The federal 10th US. Circuit Court of Appeals denies Utah's emergency motion for a temporary stay:

In response to the U.S. District Court's ruling in support of marriage equality, Utah's Attorney General's Office took three separate actions:

  1. It appealed the case to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in the hope that the higher court would eventually overturn the District Court's ruling.

  2. It issued a motion asking Judge Shelby to issue a stay of its ruling until the matter was resolved by the Court of Appeals. This would take the form of an injunction to prevent further same-sex marriages until the Court of Appeals issued its own ruling -- probably sometime in 2014. This would eliminate what the state government probably considers an absolutely intolerable situation: Large numbers of loving, committed same-sex couples are continuing to go to their county clerks' offices, obtain marriage licenses, joyously becoming married, and thereby obtaining the status of a married couple, getting access to 1,138 federal government benefits and federal grants, benefits and protections on a par with married opposite-sex couples -- along with a smaller number of state benefits and protections -- for themselves and their children.

  3. To try to speed up a halt to new same-sex marriages, the Office also issued to the Appeals Court an Emergency Motion for Temporary Stay of the lower court's ruling which would have stopped further same-sex marriages until the lower court issued its own stay.

The Appeals Court denied the Emergency Motion because it violated both the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure and the local rules of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. 2 And so the Attorney General's Office, the Government of Utah, the main Mormon church, and most of the citizens of Utah now have to come to terms with at least temporary marriage equality in the state, and tolerate the large number of same-sex couples being married for at least the immediate future.

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2013-DEC-22: Judge Shelby also denies temporary stay to his ruling:

Judge Shelby met with state attorneys about 9 AM and issued his decision to deny the stay at about 11:15 AM. Meanwhile hundreds of same-sex couples around the state were at their county offices obtaining marriage licenses. Some counties were illegally refusing to provide marriage licenses, and were waiting to see if Judge Shelby would grant or refuse the State's request for a stay of his ruling. Others were illegally waiting to see if the Court of Appeals would issue a stay of its own.

At the meeting, Judge Shelby commented that the state had only regurgitated the comments that he had previously rejected.

He had already determined that:

  • Allowing same-sex couples to marry has no measurable negative impact on the marriages of opposite-sex couples or on the institution of marriage itself.

  • Not allowing same-sex couples to marry deprives them of status, and the many rights and protections that come with marriage.

Gov. Gary Herbert issued a statement concerning Judge Shelby's refusal to grant a stay. He said:

"It’s not surprising to me. It’s disappointing, but not surprising. Typical wisdom would have had, with the order of last Friday, a stay to accompany with it. It clearly was going to be appealed, no matter what the decision was, it would be appealed by either side. So the process will move forward, that’s the democratic process.

And the uncertainty of what is happening is creating a lot of chaos. That’s my concern. This uncertainty is creating a lot of problems for us with the conflicting laws in the state of Utah, what the clerks should be doing, what the tax laws are going to be. There’s a lot of issues there, so a stay would be appropriate until we finally have resolution. So I’m disappointed, but not surprised."

There appears to be a consensus among constitutional experts that marriages being solemnized now will be legal even if the Court of Appeals eventually issues a stay or overrules the District Court ruling. However, state attorneys disagree. They believe that if Judge Shelby's ruling is not eventually upheld by the Court of Appeals, then all of the couples who married in the meantime would be forcibly divorced against their will.

Marissa Lang and Brooke Adams of the Salt Lake Tribune wrote:

"During arguments Monday before Shelby, Assist. Utah Attorney General Philip Lott argued that the court should impose a stay because the judge’s order last week caught everyone by surprise and disrupted the status quo. And because the state will otherwise appeal, and all same-sex marriage licenses issued would be null and void, if the decision is overturned by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Lott said there was 'a cloud of uncertainty over the same-sex marriages currently taking place.'

'No one wins, if Utah’s marriage laws are changed back and forth,' he argued. 'The status quo should remain intact.'

'There is a great irony in the fact that for Utah to be allowed to become a state, it was compelled by the federal government to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman.'

He said that, traditionally, marriage has been defined as a man and a woman and that 'opposite sex marriage serves society’s interests'." 3

Few would disagree with his last statement. Opposite-sex marriage gives couples the status of marriage, and many benefits and protections for the couple and their children, if any. If SSM becomes legal in Utah, the 95% of couples who marry will probably continue to be opposite-sex. The only question at this time is whether loving, committed same-sex couples should be allowed access to marriage and its benefits and protections.

Prior to Utah transitioning from a territory to a state, the federal government required Utah to no longer permit marriages between one man and multiple women, and to restrict marriages to one woman and one man.

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This topic continues in the next essay

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Brooke Adams, "Federal judge strikes down Utah ban on same-sex marriage," The Salt Lake Tribune, 2013-DEC-20, at: http://www.sltrib.com/
  2. Elisabeth A. Shumaker, "Appellate Case: 13-4178," United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, 2013-DEC-22, at: http://localtvkstu.files.wordpress.com/ This is a PDF file.
  3. Marissa Lang and Brooke Adams, "Judge denies Utah AG’s request to halt same-sex marriages," The Salt Lake Tribune, 2013-DEC-23, at: http://www.sltrib.com/

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Copyright © 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2013-DEC-22
Latest update: 2013-DEC-30
Author: B.A. Robinson

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