Federal judge strikes down Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage

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SALT LAKE CITY -- A federal judge declared Utah's Amendment Three, which defines marriage as solely between a man and a woman, as unconstitutional.

"The court hereby declares that Amendment 3 is unconstitutional because it denies the Plaintiffs their rights to due process and equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution," United States District Court Judge Robert J. Shelby wrote in a ruling Friday.

Read the ruling here. [PDF]

FOX 13 News' Annie Cutler was there to capture the first same-sex marriage performed in Utah on camera, click here for the video. The man tweeted:

More than 100 people received marriage licenses. FOX 13 News spoke with some of the couples who were married Friday, including State Senator Jim Dabakis--see the videos at the bottom of this story for their interviews.

The Salt Lake County Clerk's Office stayed open late to marry same-sex couples as they lined up, but sometime around 7:45 p.m. they closed the doors. Officials with the Utah Pride Center said they asked the clerk's office to open Saturday at 11 a.m. to grant more licenses, but the office maintained its normal operating hours.

About a thousand people waited in line in Weber County after officials with the Weber County Clerk's Office initially said they intended to open Saturday, but officials ultimately decided against it due to legal and security concerns.

Poll: Should same-sex marriages continue in Utah?

FOX 13 News contacted officials with Box Elder, Duchesne, San Juan, Uintah, Utah, Wayne and Weber counties, and officials said Friday they were not issuing marriage certificates to same-sex couples. Most said they are waiting for instructions from state officials.

Gov. Gary Herbert sent out a letter to the county clerks Saturday, advising them on the situation. Click here for the letter.

Utah County Clerk/Auditor Bryan Thompson issued a statement to FOX 13 News regarding marriage licenses.

"Based upon today’s ruling by US District Court Judge Robert Shelby that Utah’s same sex marriage ban is unconstitutional; I am seeking further clarification from the State, and the Utah County Attorney’s Office. Until I receive the further clarification that I’m seeking, the Utah County Clerk’s Office will not be making any policy changes in regards to which we issue marriage licenses. We will continue at this time to issue a marriage license only to applicant couples (male and female) who appear together at the Utah County Clerk’s Office."

Cache County officials said they will be issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples for now. Officials in Washington County also said they would be issuing marriage licenses, and they said they initially waited to receive an "OK" from the county attorney's office before doing so.

Brock Belnap, Washington County Attorney, said Judge Shelby's order was clear, and "we follow the law." Two licenses were issued Friday, Belnap said.

"There's no legal basis to treat same-sex couples differently from heterosexual couples requesting marriage licenses," he said.

Davis County officials said in a statement that, "The decision announced today, unless and until a stay is granted or Judge Shelby is overturned, is the law of the land. We do not advise folks they can disregard an Order issued by a court with jurisdiction, even if we / they disagree."

The Utah Attorney General’s Office said they were requesting an emergency stay as they appeal. They released this statement:

“The federal district court’s ruling that same-sex marriage is a fundamental right has never been established in any previous case in the 10th Circuit. The state is requesting an emergency stay pending the filing of an appeal. The Attorney General’s Office will continue reviewing the ruling in detail until an appeal is filed to support the constitutional amendment passed by the citizens of Utah.”

Officials with the Utah Attorney General's Office issued a second statement late Friday night:

"The Utah Attorney General's Office and the plaintiffs in the Amendment 3 lawsuit discussed with U.S. District Court Judge Robert Shelby this afternoon a stay of his decision prohibiting Utah's definition of marriage as between a man and a woman.  Judge Shelby declined to stay his decision on the court's own accord and would not entertain an oral motion to stay.  As a result, the Attorney General's Office is filing a written motion to stay, which the judge has said he will resolve on an expedited basis."

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said in a statement same-sex marriages would continue in Salt Lake County for now.

"Earlier today, we received Judge Shelby’s opinion declaring Utah’s same sex marriage ban unconstitutional as a violation of both Equal Protection and Due Process. Consistent with the federal constitution and Judge Shelby’s order, we promptly advised the Salt Lake County Clerk that marriage license applications submitted by same sex couples should be processed in the same manner as all other applications for marriage licenses.

We understand the State just filed its Notice and Appeal and may soon file a motion to stay Judge Shelby’s order pending appeal. However, until Judge Shelby determines to stay his order, or until the State successfully petitions an appellate court to stay or reverse the ruling, we will continue to honor and uphold the constitutional rights of all Utahns."

Gov. Gary Herbert issued a statement expressing displeasure with the ruling, and the Sutherland Institute, a conservative policy think tank, also spoke out against the judge's decision. Click here for more information and their statements.

Cody Craynor, a spokesman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, released the following statement in response to the ruling.

“The Church has been consistent in its support of traditional marriage while teaching that all people should be treated with respect. This ruling by a district court will work its way through the judicial process. We continue to believe that voters in Utah did the right thing by providing clear direction in the state constitution that marriage should be between a man and a woman and we are hopeful that this view will be validated by a higher court.”

In a press release, The American Civil Liberties Union stated they had filed a friend of the court brief in connection with the three couple’s challenge of the law.

“We’re glad that the court has ruled against this discriminatory law,” said John Mejia, legal director of the ACLU of Utah, in the release. “This law only serves to deny loving and committed couples the protection and dignity that only comes with marriage. We congratulate the brave couples who brought this challenge and their legal team.”

FOX 13 News spoke with attorneys for the plaintiffs as well as the state earlier this month.

The state had argued that only allowing marriage between a man and a woman promotes responsible procreation and supports the “optimal mode of child rearing.”

Phil Lott is a Utah assistant attorney general, and he said Amendment Three doesn’t come from a place of bigotry.

“Sixty six percent of the voters of Utah passed Amendment Three, and it’s impossible to consider that 66 percent of the population of Utah are bigoted against homosexuals,” he said earlier in December. “That’s simply not the fact.”

Peggy Tomsic is an attorney for the plaintiffs, and she said prior to the judge’s ruling she believes Amendment Three is unconstitutional.

“There is a clear line of authority from the Supreme Court that says you cannot let a popular vote decide a person’s rights,” she said. “If that were so, we would still be banning racially integrated marriages in the South, I believe.”


    • Roger Vines

      Where does the redefinition of marriage end? These LGBT folks are hypocrites. They deny marriage rights to polygamy folks, they deny marriage rights to religious cults, they deny marriage rights to adult sisters, they deny rights to pedophyles to marry their young lovers, they deny an adult father from marriage with an adult daughter. So question for all you hypocritical LGBT folks. What makes your sexual preference acceptable for legal marriage rights but you would deny other sexual orientations?

      • Ben Hennessy

        It’s a consensual agreement by adults. I’m not against polygamy unless you can prove it has a direct negative impact on someone else.

  • Eric Anderson

    I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Marriage belongs to society, not to the government. Get government out of the marriage business entirely.

    Gays have always “married”, and whoever chose to recognize the marriages did so. That will never change.

    The ONLY issue involving government is the legal contract between a married couple, and that shouldn’t have anything to do with s e x. You don’t have to sleep with your banker to make a loan official, do you? (It helps, but it’s not legally necessary.)

  • Josh Curtice

    2 men or 2 women being married does absolutely nothing whatsoever to hinder heterosexual marriages, or beg special rights. You are correct in saying that marriage belongs to society. GLBT people are part of society, so it belongs to us too. Without the government involved in marriage, married people wouldn’t get any tax credits. We’re not asking to get married in churches. We’re just asking that if we choose to be married, that our marriages are legally recognized where we live, just like yours. Separate but equal is not equal. EQUAL WITH NO SEPARATIONS OR EXCEPTIONS, IS EQUAL. Today is a happy day, Utah. Good Job.

    • Alli

      Instead of Homosexuals wanting to change the “definition” of what marriage is. Why don’t they work at changing the rules or requirements for Insurance companies & others who have put restrictions on what constitutes a spouse or partner in their rules. Why does the marriage definition have to be changed? If they want a Civil Union, then seek one. There’s common law marriages everywhere.

    • Aron

      I feel bad for all these mormons who now have to… Oh wait they don’t have to do anything it has nothing to do with them

  • DaveO

    “Sixty six percent of the voters of Utah passed Amendment Three, and it’s impossible to consider that 66 percent of the population of Utah are bigoted against homosexuals,” he said earlier in December. “That’s simply not the fact.”

    What percent LD S was Utah again?

  • Faketripper

    The point of the comment was to say that 100% of those 64% or 66% of ‘traditional’ marriage supporters aren’t homophonic. To say so is bigoted against the LDS and casting stereotypes which I believe progressives are trying so hard to get rid of, right? The LDS don’t drink or smoke either but that doesn’t mean they condemn those people either.

    • Stuart

      Except they kind of do. Majority of lawmakers in Utah are LDS (that’s a fact, look it up) and every year stricter laws are passed regarding tobacco and alcohol. For instance, last year Utah raised the tobacco tax to be something like 86%, one of the highest in the nation. And coming up in the next session, Utah lawmakers are trying to raise the legal tobacco age, further hitting the tobacco industry.

      • Kaden

        What’s wrong with trying to extend people’s lives? Give people a couple of more years before they can “legally” significantly raise their chances cancer. Doesn’t seem like a bad idea to me.

  • kigerspirit

    And if you actually read the Bible, there are quite a few of “God’s” laws that are no longer in practice…. like slavery, infanticide and stoning.

  • Leigh

    Good Job Utah… let people love who they want to love…. No one is asking to let people marry their pet! I know what the bible says about this but it also says judge ye not… it’s not up to you to force your belief on others!! Two people in love are better than two people who are married but not in love..

  • Randall

    It was wrong when it was put to a vote. It’s been corrected and the constitutionality will stand.. Take a deep breath and try to live your life according to your own values. Thats what I am going to do… Thank you to the constitution for giving me the right to be just like everyone else

  • Witch

    I think it is beautiful. Love is Love! The happiness in the couples faces speaks a million words. this is a dream come true for them.

    • Viper

      Yeah sure..

      If as you people say:

      “Love is love” and “all love is equal” than you should be willing to
      stand by your statements. Support Patrick and Susan Stuebing’s right to “marriage equality”. It shouldn’t matter they’re brother and sister.

      Support the Saudi with his 10 year old child bride.

      Funny how you want to shut the door in the face of others that you kicked in for yourselves.

      Hypocrite much?

      • Sharon Wells

        I am not a Lesbian myself and I actually believe marriage should be between a man and a woman but that has to be the most ridiculous comparison I have ever heard. Were talking about two people who love each other not some weirdo molesting a child, Huge difference!!! I guess I did believe that now I just believe everyone has the right to be happy and if they want to marry my hell let them. Government needs to stay out of it though!!

      • Floyd

        First of all, we are fighting our own fight. If someone else wants to fight for rights for themselves, let them fight. It isn’t our fight and we don’t take a position on it. Second, it is about adults, so your canard about the 10 year old is false. You are just desperately looking for some reason, any reason, to deny gays and lesbians their rights, all because of your hatred of us.

  • Angelika Bertrand

    One day we all will wake up and be judged by our words that were hate ful and despictible.
    Fellow Christian’s if you really truly Christian’s then you know Jesus was all about LOVE one another.

  • Greg Clapp

    Oh, is it cherry picking season?? Seems like an awful lot of people, including the governor and AG, want to cherry pick which parts of the Constitution and which parts of they bible they choose to follow. Traditional marriage, huh? When are we going to start stoning to death people who get divorced?

    • a witness

      Who’s calling for stoning? It’s repentance that’s needed. And no, if they don’t repent, the adulterers and fornicators, drunkards, liars, etc. are not going to escape either. Why perish for things which cannot be held on to anyhow. This world is temporary, judgment is coming, and these base passions will not be getting fulfilled in the lake of fire and brimstone which lies ahead for all who rebel against God. God does not desire for people to perish, but they must repent in time: Acts 2:38-39

  • a witness

    For those who don’t think that homosexuality is wrong, ask yourself: Well then, if it’s not wrong why do so many homosexuals have such difficulty living with it? Why do so many murder each other in their sexual encounters (a thing that seems to be highly underreported)?
    The Bible is true, it is sin and it is such a sin as to be called an abomination. But in a world that calls murder a right to choose and where with every evidence of the fallen nature of mankind it is claimed that people are good, should we be surprised when darkness is called light and good is called evil and those who cry for repentance are called haters. These are the last days, judgment is at hand, but the door is still open for those who can believe : Acts 2:38-39

    • Joe Shope

      The Bible has many verses which are no longer followed by the masses. For instance the prohibition on eating shellfish, drinking alcohol (hello Catholic church), divorce, etc. You cannot pick and choose which verses you follow. Last but not least do not forget “Love thy neighbor as thyself” and “Judge not lest ye also be judged”.

  • BMW57

    Sorry but no, god does not run the US. Why don’t you find a small island to set up your theocracy with your homophobic bigotry?

  • debbie gansereit

    what ever is that the person life what they are making them self to become lesbians or gays that their life
    meaning is what is thier life is making them seld we cant change them to be normal the words is letting go cannot judge them period and no words for hate
    i believe the book or norman is true but said in book ( NO JUDGEING TO PEOPLE ) JUST LETTING IT GO that all care about

    • debbie gansereit

      what if your parents will except that and most dont
      please except to be friend not hate i care for all these people in world i spell wrong on top self not seld
      what if is brother or sister become gays or lesbians cannot hate for that

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