Utah Federal Court Strikes Down State Marriage Ban   Leave a comment

Given how conservative Utah is politically, this is, if I’m reading the article’s premise correctly, to borrow Vice President Biden’s quote, “a big f’n deal”…quoting Think Progress:

United States v. Windsor, the Supreme Court’s landmark decision striking down the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, was not the clearest opinion the justices have ever produced. Although that opinion was firmly rooted in the Constitution’s guarantee of equality for all Americans, it contained just enough states’ rights language to give anti-gay lawmakers in the states some hopes that marriage discrimination could remain alive in conservative enclaves throughout the country. If a Utah federal judge’s opinion that was released Friday is upheld on appeal, however, there will no longer be any doubt that marriage equality belongs to all Americans. “The Constitution protects the Plaintiffs’ fundamental rights, which include the right to marry and the right to have that marriage recognized by their government,” Judge Robert Shelby concludes in his opinion striking down Utah’s ban on marriage equality — and this right applies to everyone. The same Constitution, Shelby explains “protects the choice of one’s partner for all citizens, regardless of sexual identity.”

Although Shelby largely relies on the argument that marriage is a fundamental right protected by the Constitution, he also made sharp nods towards the promise of equality. “Rather than protecting or supporting the families of opposite-sex couples,” he explains, Utah’s “Amendment 3 perpetuates inequality by holding that the families and relationships of same-sex couples are not now, nor ever will be, worthy of recognition.”(Think Progress)

Now, as Think Progress points out, this decision in Utah isn’t quite as broad as the New Mexico decision earlier this week that legalized same-sex marriages in that state; there, the court held that,

“[b]ecause same-gender couples (whether lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, hereinafter ‘LGBT’) are a discrete group which has been subjected to a history of discrimination and violence, and which has inadequate political power to protect itself from such treatment, the classification at issue must withstand intermediate scrutiny to be constitutional.”     (Think Progress)

The difference in these court decisions in this manner: the Shelby decision in Utah was centered on the right-to-marry whereas the Nex Mexico decision held that these laws must meet the highest levels of constitutional scrutiny, effectively giving LGBT individuals the same legal status as other minority groups within American law.

As VP Biden once said, if this case eventually becomes settled law, it would be a big f’n deal, for all Americans.

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Posted December 20, 2013 by Matthew in Uncategorized

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