Last month, on 20 December 2014, Utah became the 15th state with legal gay marriage, due to a ruling from Federal District Court Judge Robert Shelby.
In his ruling, Judge Shelby declared Utah’s state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage was in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment guaranteeing due process and equal protection under the law, and in a very clear and forthright opinion, tied marriage equality to the previous bans on interracial marriage.
Since then, both Judge Shelby and the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals declined to issue a stay pending appeal, resulting in an estimated 1300+ newly married gay and lesbian couples in Utah.
I think perhaps our host, John Aravosis, had a smidge of optimism that the Mormons would forbear from their usual knee-jerk homophobia, suggesting this turn of events could represent a new chance for them to reform their reputation… but I’ve been skeptical all along. Heck, one Utah man went on a hunger strike to stop gays and lesbians from marrying.
Indeed, mere days later on New Year’s Eve, the Mormons and the GOP both begged for Federal intervention from the Supreme Court, referring their request to the supervising head of the 10th Circuit, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who then referred the matter to the full bench, which then did issue the requested stay on January 6th, Monday.
The marriages stopped. Yes, everybody knows that the legitimacy of those 1300+ Utah marriages remains in question pending a final judicial ruling. However, there’s the judicial precedent of California. Roughly 18,000 couples from the 2008 “Summer of Love” did have their marriages upheld, despite the lack of Federal recognition.
And now we have a situation where these 1300+ Utah couples, regardless how the state government feels about it, would enjoy post-DOMA Federal rights and protections. Thus, there is clear and unavoidable ‘tangible harm’ if those marriages are overturned, whereas — as I like to put it — the only harm to homophobic bigots and religious radicals is their fee-fees are hurt because gay people aren’t suffering. Every reason posited to oppose same-sex marriage equality and equal protection under the law is based either on outright lies (harm to kids, procreation, etc.) or blatant anti-gay animus, or both.
So what does the Utah state government do? What Mormon bigots always do – attempt to un-marry gay people.
In this case, Governor Gary Herbert (R-of course) announced Wednesday (Jan 8) that the state will not recognize those 1300+ marriages. It’s also worth noting that Governor Herbert (why do I always think of Star Trek when I hear that name) felt compelled to issue this statement despite the fact that Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes (also Republican, surprisingly) said he could not determine on his own whether or not the marriages were valid.
We are unable to reach a legal conclusion as to the ultimate validity of marriage between persons of the same sex who completed their marriage ceremony in Utah between Dec 20, 2013 and Jan. 6, 2014. That question remains unanswered and the answer will depend on the result of the appeal process.
Actually, they’re married. The Supreme Court stayed the federal court’s decision, pending appeal. But they didn’t say anything about undoing the marriages that were already done.
In the meantime, I for one will be quite interested to hear the official position of the Obama Administration and his Department of Justice. Will these couples be considered married by the Federal government, despite the pending case?
We have no doubt what Governor Herbert has in mind though, do we?