Utah argues for children in same-sex marriage fight

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SALT LAKE CITY -- In its first brief in the appeal of Amendment 3, the Utah Attorney General's Office focused on how same-sex marriage would harm children.

"At the most basic level, Utah has a critical interest in preserving the child-centric, husband-wife ("conjugal") marriage culture that it has carefully nurtured since its inception as a State. Redefining marriage in an adult-centric, "consent-based" manner undermines that culture to the detriment of all Utah’s children," the state wrote in the brief.

The brief, filed late Monday night before the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, is the first step to appeal a federal judge's ruling last year that overturned Amendment 3. In 2004, voters passed the constitutional amendment that defined marriage as between a man and a woman, and refused to recognize any other union.

On Dec. 20, 2013, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Shelby ruled that Amendment 3 violated the equal protection and due process clauses of the U.S. Constitution by denying same-sex couples the right to marry. Since that ruling, more than 1,300 same-sex couples have obtained marriage licenses in Utah before the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay pending appeal.

Arguments in the case are slated for April 10 in Denver.

In the filing, the Utah Attorney General's Office and its hired counsel for the appeal, argue that "there is no fundamental due process right to marry someone of the same sex."

The arguments, however, largely focus on procreation and raising children in traditional homes.

Read Utah's brief in the Amendment 3 appeal here.

Utah's traditional definition of marriage "gently encourages parents" to put childrens' needs first, the state wrote. Redefining marriage in "genderless" terms would result in lower reproductive rates and fewer children being reared in an ideal environment by opposite sex parents, the state claims.

The state claimed a correlation between "genderless marriage and lower birthrates."

"The need to ensure adequate procreation is why, since time immemorial, and even in societies that embraced homosexual liaisons, marriage has always been conceived as a union between a man and a woman for the purpose of having children," the state wrote.

The state also said in its brief that preserving traditional marriage is vital to encourage religious freedom and reduce civic strife. The Utah Attorney General's Office noted that governments would be pressured to force religious social service agencies to accommodate adoption and foster care, punish people in wedding-related businesses who refuse to provide services based on religious grounds, and possibly revoke the tax-exempt status of churches who do not perform same-sex marriages.

"Preventing these kinds of social tensions and conflicts — and the infringements of religious freedom they could create — is an important and compelling State interest, legitimately grounded in the State’s concern for public welfare," the brief said.

The state wraps up the 178-page filing by saying Utah's Amendment 3 "does not dictate the choices of its citizens."

"By defining marriage as being between one man and one woman, Utah does not interfere with adults' ability to commit to an exclusive, loving relationship with others of the same sex, or to bring children into that relationship," the state writes. "Instead, the laws at issue here simply encourage a familial structure that has served society for thousands of years as the ideal setting for raising children."

"Nothing in the federal Constitution prevents Utah's citizens from making that choice."

The plaintiffs in the Amendment 3 case have until Feb. 25 to file a response.

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes issued a statement Tuesday afternoon on the brief filed with the appeals court:

“The Utah Attorney General’s Office is dedicated to upholding the laws of the people.  Although this particular issue is highly charged, and understandably so, we reiterate our commitment to Utah citizens to defend all Utah laws. Our office’s involvement is not driven by political motives, but rather our sense of duty.  The team of attorneys and staff who have worked to defend Utah’s Constitutional Amendment 3 have varied personal beliefs on same-sex marriage, but respect their obligation to defend Utah law.

The brief submitted on Feb 3, 2014 clarifies why the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit should uphold the decision of Utah’s citizens to retain the marriage definition that has been in place since the State’s inception.

The legal question at issue is not the fundamental right of same-sex couples to enter into exclusive and permanent relationships, raise children, or bequeath property at their death.  Utah law already gives those rights.  The constitutional question is whether it is reasonable for Utah's citizens to believe that a child benefits most from being raised by his or her biological mother and father in a permanent relationship, and that such relationships should therefore be encouraged through recognition as marriages.

This issue is a highly emotional one for Utah citizens and deserves the best arguments and representation on both sides.  Although the United States Supreme Court held in the Windsor case that states have the authority under the federal Constitution to abandon the traditional man-woman definition of marriage and to redefine it in another manner, it did not expressly answer the question of whether states have the authority to retain the traditional definition of marriage. 

The State of Utah firmly believes the definition of marriage adopted by 66 percent of Utah citizens through popular vote is legal not only under the Utah Constitution, but also the United States Constitution. It is the duty of the Attorney General to defend the validity of the state constitution, particularly a provision recently enacted by an overwhelming majority of the state's citizens.”

Also on Tuesday, the Coalition of African American Pastors USA and others filed an amicus brief supporting Utah's position in the Amendment 3 appeal.

Read the amicus brief here.

21 comments

    • BJ

      Yawn, yet another petty tyrant opens his mouth wishing to suppress the 1st amendment rights of free speech and redressing grievances.

  • rich

    The Me Me Me crowd telling us that children aren’t affected. Protect our young from the perverted life style ideology.

    • Bryan Merkley

      yes, I would say that the standard husband-wife marriage is often in perversion. Infact, studies state that the ‘traditional’ lifestyle has more fights and divorce rates than any other lifestyle including polygamy. If we are to get rid of a lifestyle for it’s perversions, it would be what you’d call ‘traditional’.

    • lazarwulf

      I agree, keep religion away from the children until they are legal adults and mature enough to make educated decisions. No more brainwashing and conditioning kids into groupthink and bigotry.

    • Yeshua yenny

      Which perverted lifestyle? The suffocating religious one which likes to impose its will on the whole state? Because i can definitely support protecting children from that threat.

    • jason

      Wait you’re pissed off because the state found a home for your kid after you decided you didn’t want her? Hey everyone we have another example of that perfect hetero patenting everyone seems to be talking about.

    • BJ

      You know what is sheltered? Starting this entire thread by telling people to shut up. Very close minded and sheltered….

      A liberal would fight for people’s freedom of expression regardless of disagreement. Absolutists and the sheltered wish for others not to express contrarian views.

  • tyty96

    How would me being married reproduction rate? I’m still gay rather married or not, and I intend on having a surrogate for me and my partner to have children.

    • BJ

      You tell us. What is the reproduction rate of heterosexuals compared against the alternatives? The state’s argument talks in generalities and not exceptions, for we know there can be toxic growing up situations amongst all choices.

  • Oh bite me

    You want to talk about what’s best for the children look at Utah’s teen suicide rate is fourth in the nation. I grew up in Utah, I could attest to the reason why a lot of kids commit suicide in This state, is because of the Mormon religion the over bearing bigoted views. You want what’s best for the children? Dismantle the LDS CULT.

  • Lacie

    Seriously this is a sad state! We have high suicide rates, teen pregnancy rates. Seriously, get the religion out of everything!!

  • Anissa Love

    Here is a Novel Idea… The LDS Church, The State Government and those people who are for wasting tax payer money to fight for Traditional marriage as it is in the best interest of the “Children” Go adopt one of the millions of children who are in the Adoption agency… and stay the hell out of other peoples Bedrooms!!!!!

  • Josh Curtice

    Hey, Sutherland Institute!!: “New Rule: You can’t call yourself a think tank when all your ideas are stupid.”~Bill Maher.

    Children, huh? So..What about heterosexual married couples who either can’t have children, or don’t WANT children? Do you take marriage from them too?

    I’d still be interested to know HOW and WHO will be held accountable when all this tax payer money is wasted, and EQUALITY PREVAILS!

Comments are closed.

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