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Even in Utah: Judge strikes down state gay marriage ban

- The Washington Times - Friday, December 20, 2013
In one of the most socially conservative states in the country, a federal judge in Utah on Friday struck down a voter-passed ban on gay marriage, saying it was unconstitutional.
An appeal is expected in the case, which is the first of many that challenge the marriage amendments passed by the states in the 1990s and 2000s. The decision comes after the Supreme Court this summer struck down the federal law banning recognition of state gay marriage laws.

U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby said he could not find a compelling reason to permit Utah's Amendment 3, passed by 66 percent of voters in 2004, to stand.
"The state’s current laws deny its gay and lesbian citizens their fundamental right to marry and, in so doing, demean the dignity of these same-sex couples for no rational reason," wrote Judge Shelby. "Accordingly, the court finds that these laws are unconstitutional."
Judge Shelby also said the state failed to show that allowing same-sex marriage would harm traditional marriages, and the state's fears and speculations were unsupported and insufficient to justify denying gay couples the right to marry.
Utah voters approved Amendment 3 to make it clear in the state constitution that marriage meant the legal union of one man and one woman.
Voters in some 30 other states have passed similar amendments. 
In Utah, three same-sex couples challenged Amendment 3. The couples, represented by Peggy A. Tomsic and James E. Magleby, included two couples who want to marry in Utah and another pair who married elsewhere and want their union recognized in Utah.
State officials defended the amendment, saying man-woman marriage is held in particular regard by government because such couples naturally create children, and a mother-father home is "optimal" for raising children.
State officials also argued that it is a state's right to decide its marriage laws, a legal position upheld by the Supreme Court in its summer decision, which overturned part of the Defense of Marriage Act.
However, Judge Shelby rejected the line of reasoning about "procreation" as a reason to preserve marriage for heterosexual couples, especially when it violates the 14th Amendment rights of gay couples.
 
Friday's ruling in Utah comes on the heels of a ruling legalizing gay marriage from the New Mexico Supreme Court.

New Mexico became the 17th state to permit same-sex couples to marry. Gay rights activists want to see more than half the nation's population living in a "marriage equality" state by 2016.

Many gay-marriage court challenges are pending in other states, but Utah's has been closely watched because of the state's history of staunch opposition to gay marriage as the home of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

This story is based in part on wire service reports.


 

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