Utah and Marriage

As alluded to in my previous post, I am going to try and write more this year, starting out at around 1,500 words a week and building to about that a day by November. Hopefully, I will be able to publish some things that my readers will find interesting, and if there are any ideas as to what you might want to see here, please let me know in the form of a comment. I aim to please and, honestly, it can be difficult to find things to write about sometime. On with the first “real” post of 2014, my reflections on the state of marriage in my home state of Utah.

It started on November 2, 2004, though honestly, I’m sure the swells started long before that. That was the day that Utah was among 11 states that passed some sort of amendment to their state constitutions regarding marriage, defining it as something that is only allowed between man and woman. In Utah, it was known as Amendment 3, and reads as such:

  1. 1. Marriage consists only of the legal union between a man and a woman.
  2. 2. No other domestic union, however, denominated, may be recognized as a marriage or given the same or substantially equivalent legal effect.

The reason that I am bringing this up now, as many are aware, was that the amendment was challenged in court by some same-sex couples in Utah, and on December 20, 2013, federal judge Robert Shelby, an appointee to the federal bench by President Obama that was endorsed by both of the Republican Senators from Utah, struck down Amendment 3 as unconstitutional, given that it violates the due process rights for same-sex couples, as well as the equal protection clause of the 14th AmendmentThis seemed to be a victory for all people, not only the same-sex couples denied equal rights in the grand state of Utah, but for all people that believe that everyone should be treated equally in the eyes of the law. Currently, not counting Utah, 16 states and the District of Columbia make no distinction between marriage between man and woman or same-sex marriage. While short of a majority of states, and a majority of the population, it feels that the tide has started to turn, especially in light of last year’s Supreme Court rulings on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California’s Proposition 8.

Nevertheless, leave it to the state of Utah to fight tooth and nail after the judge’s ruling that their amendment violates the U.S. Constitution, spending millions of taxpayer money on a fight that they may ultimately end up losing. At this point, there are a few things that can happen if I understand how these things work correctly. There is a chance that this case could reach the Supreme Court like the DOMA and Prop 8 cases, but there is also a chance that the Court could rely on the precedent established in those cases and refuse to hear it, making Judge Shelby’s decision stand. It first has to work its way through the Appeals Court and all that, and in the meantime, the state was able to get a stay on Judge Shelby’s order, stopping same-sex couples from being married until the end of the process, which could take another few years even with a request for expedited processing or whatever.

Nevertheless, the sight of all those same-sex couples descending on the local city and/or county building to get their marriage licenses really scared some people in Utah. One guy decided that he would fast until “Utah exercises its right of nullification” regarding Judge Shelby’s decision. No word from him since the stay was enacted though, so we have no idea if he’s ate again yet. The county clerk in Utah County refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, directly in violation of the ruling, and found himself sued prior to the stay.

The state has been arguing, and will continue to argue, that the “will of the people” of the state of Utah is being trumped by judges, that this amendment to harm a part of the state population was passed by majority vote in an election. While this is true, voter turnout was only 57%, and when the leading religion in that state, which, you know, is supposed to not involve itself in the political arena, comes out in support of the amendment, the people who tend to support these types of progressive causes stay home and don’t vote, especially in a state where a vote for a “liberal” cause or candidate is often viewed as wasted.

Had those other 43% of citizens been required to vote, I would like to think the final count would have been slightly closer, and with more than just Summit and Grand counties (Utah’s “hippy meccas”) opposing it. We probably will never know, and now the issue will be decided in the courts, where it has been for many other states that now legalize same-sex marriage. I don’t expect my home state to ever come fully around on all the things that I care about, but this could be a step in the right direction, and perhaps one that actually leads to real debate and not one centered around how your particular god will feel about things.

Until next time…

2 thoughts on “Utah and Marriage

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