December 23, 2013

Judge allows gay marriage in Utah to continue

He says the voter-approved measure is a violation of gay couples’ constitutional rights under the Equal Protections Clause of the 14th Amendment.

By Brady Mccombs And Paul Foy
The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

Samantha Christensen, left, and Elise Larsen apply for a marriage license in the Salt Lake County Clerk’s Office in Salt Lake City on Friday. A federal judge on Monday is set to consider a request from the state of Utah to block gay weddings that have been taking place since Friday when the state’s same-sex marriage ban was overturned.

The Associated Press

“Utah should be allowed to follow its democratically chosen definition of marriage,” he said of the 2004 gay marriage ban.

Lott later said the state was disappointed with Shelby’s latest ruling and would continue its legal battle.

In explaining his decision, Shelby said the state made basically the same arguments he had already rejected. He added the situation in Utah has become “something of a mess” because the state did not have a request to halt the marriages ready at the time of his ruling Friday or in the hours afterward.

Lott countered that they had no prior notification the ruling was coming, and said the fact that it was the Friday before Christmas complicated matters.

Adding to the chaos is the fact that Utah Attorney General John Swallow stepped down about a month ago amid a scandal involving allegations of bribery and offering businessmen protection in return for favors. The state has since had an acting attorney general, and Gov. Gary Herbert appointed a replacement Monday who will serve until a special election next year.

Peggy Tomsic, the lawyer for the same-sex couples who brought the case, called gay marriage the civil rights movement of this generation and said it was the new law of the land in Utah.

“The cloud of confusion that the state talks about is only their minds,” she said.

Tomsic added she was relieved that Shelby stuck to his ruling and avoided being pressured by a moral or political majority in the state.

Shelby said in Friday’s ruling that the constitutional amendment that Utah voters approved violates gay and lesbian couples’ rights to due process and equal protection under the 14th Amendment. He said the state failed to show that allowing same-sex marriages would affect opposite-sex marriages in any way.

Legal scholars speculate that the case could someday be reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court if the justices decide they want to weigh in on whether state same-sex marriage bans violate the U.S. Constitution.

Tobias, the constitutional law professor, said that’s a real possibility but far from imminent. It will depend on what the appeals court decides and what happens with other court challenges in Nevada, Pennsylvania and Virginia, he said.

“I think the Supreme Court would prefer to not have a national rule and rather let states thrash this out individually,” Tobias said.

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