Utah AG will defend same-sex marriage ban, even if U.S. AG says don’t

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes' office will continue to defend Utah's ban on same-sex marriage, despite statements from U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder that attorneys general do not have to.

"Utah's attorney general believes it's his oath to stand up to protect the laws of the state of Utah," Reyes told FOX 13 in a recent interview. "That's what I and my team will continue to do."

Reyes said he believes he has a "duty" to defend Amendment 3, which bans same-sex marriage. In December, a federal judge declared Amendment 3 unconstitutional. In the 17 days after that, more than 1,300 same-sex couples obtained marriage licenses in Utah. The U.S. Supreme Court granted a stay pending the state's appeal to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in December.

Lawyers for three gay couples who sued Utah over Amendment 3 have until midnight to file their response to the state's appeal with the 10th Circuit Court.

In recent weeks, the attorneys general of Nevada, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Oregon have all said they will not defend their states' bans on same-sex marriage. Utah and Oklahoma have indicated they will, by appealing to the 10th Circuit Court.

"I believe it's a dangerous precedent to have an attorney general decide which laws they will enforce and will not enforce, unless there is clear constitutional precedent for that. In the Supreme Court and 10th Circuit there is not right now," Reyes said. "That's why we're proceeding on with our case."

In the interview with FOX 13, Reyes refused to share his personal feelings on same-sex couples marrying, calling it a "distraction" from the appeal of Amendment 3.

"I do (have personal feelings on it), but I don't think they're relevant to the case," he said. "I think, again, it's the duty of the attorney general regardless of their personal feelings to stand up and protect the constitution and the laws of the state of Utah."


  • Make an intelligent determination

    Reyes you’re not supposed to defend every silly unconstitutional law that crosses your desk from the Utah GOP and waste taxpayers hard earned money. The California AG made the correct determination long before Prop H8 was appealed to the 9th and SCOTUS.
    It should be obvious to you that the equality train has left the station, your claw marks are all over the caboose.

    • Eric Anderson

      It’s not a mere “law.” It’s the Constitution of the State of Utah, as amended by a 2/3 majority of voters.

      The AG has no alternative but to defend it. It’s his job.

      Who is in charge of the state? The governor, or the PEOPLE?

      This will remain an open question until the USSC rules on the matter. Don’t you want to eliminate the doubt?

  • Make an intelligent determination

    That is correct, the California AG recognized a duty to defend the US Constitution, not bow to the political whims of the religious majority.

    • Ed Williams

      Sorry, that statement is not based in reality.

      Utah, like all states, is subordinate to the U.S. Constitution.

      Utah has utterly and completely lost this fight, as it should be. Your LDS cult can no longer stop free Americans from marrying. Your ability to codify state-sponsored discrimination into law is drawing to a close.

    • Eric Anderson

      The relevance of the U.S. Constitution to this question hasn’t yet been answered by the Supreme Court.

      However, the UTAH Constitution was amended by a majority of voters. A super-majority, in fact. And the Executive branch has an obligation to defend the will of the People.

      It’s called “democracy.” You’ll get the hang of it.

      • Jack

        Actually it’s a republic; not a democracy. The will of the people can’t legally (constitutionally) vote away peoples’ civil rights. They can’t vote to create laws and amendments that conflict with the US. Constitution. If they could, we could start adding amendments to legalize slavery again, take away women’s voting rights, ban interracial marriages, etc. While the Supreme Court hasn’t ruled on it yet (but will eventually at your expense) many federal courts have. Time and time again the answer is the same and some of the judges were rather conservative. So, the state of Utah doesn’t have a leg to stand on.

      • Utah Sharia Law

        The Constitution does not permit either a state legislature or the state’s citizens through a referendum to enact laws that violate constitutionally protected rights. And “while the public has an interest in the will of the voters being carried out .. . the public has a more profound and long-term interest in upholding an individual’s constitutional rights.” Awad v. Ziriax 670 F.3d 1111, 1132 (10th Cir. 2012).

  • Jack

    So it’s the Attorney General’s duty to waste tax payer money defending an unconstitutional law that won’t win at any level regardless of how conservative the ruling judge is? Where did these guys get their law degrees? If you’re trying to prove you hate LGBT people, we get it. We are all now well aware that the Governor & AG hate them. On the other hand we are finding out that the majority of Utahans are actually on in favor of equality now. Well, Utah & Oklahoma just might be responsible for the Supreme Court to strike down all marriage bans nationwide and when that happens, I’m going to laugh at all the outraged bigots that think it’s their duty in life to force everyone to live by their religious beliefs.

    • Jack

      More like an AG that’s lousy at his job, makes himself look like a fool, all while wasting our tax money that could be used on much more important things as he wastes our tax money and angers a good portion of the state’s population. Equality supporters are only losing time, but they’re going to gain so much at the end of this that the time will be well worth it. This possibly could cause Utah to turn into a blue state. Utah already has a high Democrat & Independent population, add that with the people that are going to defect from the Republican party and election time could become rather exciting. So go for it AG & Gov Hebert. They’re going to cause a lot of changes in this state, but they going to be changes that they’re not going to like. You’re theocracy is coming to an end.

      • Jack

        Not at all. I’m just intolerant of “theocracies”. If I wanted to live in a country ruled by a religious book, I’d move to Iran, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, etc. I’m intolerant of religions that infringe upon everyone else’s religious freedom. Religious freedom applies to everyone’s religion, not just you’re own. It wouldn’t matter if 99% of the state was Mormon, that 1% is still not allowed to have it’s rights violated by the 99%.

      • Eric Anderson

        There was no religious test for those folks to register to vote.

        The citizens voted. The Amendment passed by a 2/3 majority.

        YOU are the one who would invalidate the votes of religious people.

  • Utah Sharia Law

    “Assigning a religious or traditional rationale for a law does not make it constitutional when that law discriminates against a class of people without other reasons,” wrote Federal District Judge Heyburn, an appointee of President George H.W. Bush…

    He wrote: “Many Kentuckians (and perhaps a few Utahns?) believe in “traditional marriage.” Many believe what their ministers and scriptures tell them: that a marriage is a sacrament instituted between God and a man and a woman for society’s benefit. They may be confused —even angry—when a decision such as this one seems to call into question that view. These concerns are understandable and deserve an answer. Our religious beliefs and societal traditions are vital to the fabric of society. Though each faith, minister, and individual can define marriage for themselves, at issue here are laws that act outside that protected sphere. Once the government defines marriage and attaches benefits to that definition, it must do so constitutionally. It cannot impose a traditional or faith-based limitation upon a public right without a sufficient justification for it. Assigning a religious or traditional rationale for a law, does not make it constitutional when that law discriminates against a class of people without other reasons. The beauty of our Constitution is that it accommodates our individual faith’s definition of marriage while preventing the government from unlawfully treating us differently. This is hardly surprising since it was written by people who came to America to find both freedom of religion and freedom from it.”

  • Eric Anderson

    There is a simple solution to this: Get government entirely out of the marriage business.

    It doesn’t matter what government says. Society decides who is “married” and who is not. Government can only decide to recognize the legal, contractual aspects of “marriage.” It cannot force people to THINK a certain way. Nor should it try.

    Eliminate “marriage licenses.” Recognize “domestic partnership contracts”, without regard to sexuality. (Or lack thereof. You don’t have to sleep with anyone to get a bank loan, do you? It might help sometimes, but it’s not legally necessary.)

    Let society decide who is “married” and who is not. It always has. Always will.

    That will never satisfy those who insist on forcing their will upon others, but I say we just ignore those people.

    • Utah Sharia Law

      It is well-established and crystal clear that the right to marry is a central aspect of the right to liberty, privacy, association, and identity.

      Fifteen times since 1888, the United States Supreme Court has stated that marriage is a fundamental right of all individuals. In these cases, the Court has reaffirmed that “freedom of personal choice in matters of marriage” is “one of the liberties protected by the Due Process Clause,” “essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men,” and “sheltered by the Fourteenth Amendment against the State’s unwarranted usurpation, disregard, or disrespect.”

      Here is a list of the fifteen cases, their opinions and citations to the Court’s discussion of the right to marry.

      Maynard v. Hill, 125 U.S. 190, 205, 211 (1888): Marriage is “the most important relation in life” and “the foundation of the family and society, without which there would be neither civilization nor progress.”
      Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390, 399 (1923): The right “to marry, establish a home and bring up children” is a central part of liberty protected by the Due Process Clause.
      Skinner v. Oklahoma ex rel. Williamson, 316 U.S. 535, 541 (1942): Marriage “one of the basic civil rights of man,” “fundamental to the very existence and survival of the race.”
      Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479, 486 (1965): “We deal with a right of privacy older than the Bill of Rights—older than our political parties, older than our school system. Marriage is a coming together for better or for worse, hopefully enduring, and intimate to the degree of being sacred. It is an association that promotes a way of life, not causes; a harmony in living, not political faiths; a bilateral loyalty, not commercial or social projects. Yet it is an association for as noble a purpose as any involved in our prior decisions.”
      Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1, 12 (1967): “The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men.”
      Boddie v. Connecticut, 401 U.S. 371, 376, 383 (1971): “[M]arriage involves interests of basic importance to our society” and is “a fundamental human relationship.”
      Cleveland Board of Education v. LaFleur, 414 U.S. 632, 639-40 (1974): “This Court has long recognized that freedom of personal choice in matters of marriage and family life is one of the liberties protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.”
      Moore v. City of East Cleveland, 431 U.S. 494, 499 (1977) (plurality): “[W]hen the government intrudes on choices concerning family living arrangements, this Court must examine carefully the importance of the governmental interests advanced and the extent to which they are served by the challenged regulation.”
      Carey v. Population Services International, 431 U.S. 678, 684-85 (1977): “[I]t is clear that among the decisions that an individual may make without unjustified government interference are personal decisions relating to marriage, procreation, contraception, family relationships, and child rearing and education.”
      Zablocki v. Redhail, 434 U.S. 374, 384 (1978): “[T]he right to marry is of fundamental importance for all individuals.”
      Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78, 95 (1987): “[T]he decision to marry is a fundamental right” and an “expression[ ] of emotional support and public commitment.”
      Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833, 851 (1992): “These matters, involving the most intimate and personal choices a person may make in a lifetime, choices central to personal dignity and autonomy, are central to the liberty protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.”
      M.L.B. v. S.L.J., 519 U.S. 102, 116 (1996): “Choices about marriage, family life, and the upbringing of children are among associational rights this Court has ranked as ‘of basic importance in our society,’ rights sheltered by the Fourteenth Amendment against the State’s unwarranted usurpation, disregard, or disrespect.”
      Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558, 574 (2003): “[O]ur laws and tradition afford constitutional protection to personal decisions relating to marriage, procreation, contraception, family relationships, and education. … Persons in a homosexual relationship may seek autonomy for these purposes, just as heterosexual persons do.”
      Windsor v. United States..State laws defining and regulating marriage, of course, must respect the constitutional rights of persons, see, e.g., Loving v. Virginia, 388 U. S. 1 (1967); but, subject to those guarantees, “regulation of domestic relations” is “an area that has long been regarded as a virtually exclusive province of the States.”

  • Jack

    Eric, you finally said something that I truly agree with. Get government out of the marriage business and let each religion and church decide what marriages they will perform and won’t perform. This is pretty much the Libertarian’s view on marriage.

    • Eric Anderson

      Well, I’m pretty much a libertarian on domestic issues. So that makes sense.

      In a truly free country you’d have the right to do absolutely ANYTHING as long as it doesn’t interfere with anyone else’s rights. All drugs should be legal for adults, for example, but it should be illegal to require anyone to pay to repair the damage, and causing “accidents” while under the influence, harming children as a result of drug use, or allowing children access to drugs, should be punished with a terrifying severity such that no one would ever dare make those mistakes.

      Do as you like, mind your own business, and respect the rights of others to dissent. When someone has a login name “Utah Sharia Law” they are definitely FAR from libertarian, to put it mildly.

    • Utah Sharia Law

      “Once the government defines marriage and attaches benefits to that definition, it must do so constitutionally. It cannot impose a traditional or faith-based limitation upon a public right without a sufficient justification”

      • Eric Anderson

        I agree. Read what I said.

        Eliminate the “m-word” and just deal with the contractual issues. Let society decide who is married and who is not. It always has, and always will regardless of any court decisions. You cannot legislate thought.

        I am not married to my wife merely because the government said so. I am, however, a party to a legal contract with her because the government said so. And whether or not YOU, or anyone else, consider us “married” is of no consequence or interest to me. We know we’re married, so that’s the end of the discussion.

        This is a non-issue, really. A lot of huffing and puffing, but neither side is interested in an obvious and simple solution. They insist on “all or nothing.”

  • Eric Anderson

    In a “theocracy” the Amendment to the Constitution would have been decreed by religious authority. There would have been no vote.

    In this case, there was a vote. The Amendment passed overwhelmingly.

    You don’t not live in a “theocracy” merely because religious people don’t agree with your point of view. Everyone gets one vote. My atheist vote counts exactly the same as any Mormon’s, or Catholic’s, or Jew’s, etc.

    And guess what? My atheist vote was FOR the Amendment. I don’t recall getting any “commandments” before I voted, either.

    All this “theocracy” talk is a bunch of meaningless noise.

  • Jack

    Again, it’s irrelevant as to how many people voted to enact that law. You can’t vote away someone’s civil liberalities. But I know, you’re still going to say that it’s not considered unconstitutional until the Supreme Court rules it unconstitutional; and like every federal judge thus far (including the one in Texas today) will probably rule with the same verdict. Since DOMA is no longer, these bans have no legal justification.

    I would say that it would’ve been nice if they would’ve done a vote now to see how the population feels about the ban and how many people are in favor of spending $2 mil plus to defend the ban. We know the numbers changed a lot since 2004 and even many people that oppose it are also opposed to wasting $2 mil to just get the same verdict from the appeals court and then possible the Supreme Court.

    The theocracy comment is about the Mormon Church’s stronghold on the state government here in Utah. True, religious people can vote the way they want, but they still can’t vote away someone’s civil liberties. If it makes you feel any better I’d be just as upset about them voting away peoples’ gun rights. Also, for the same reasons, federal courts are striking down state gun bans.

    On another note, I’m rather fond of the Libertarian party (not the posers that run as Republicans), but real libertarians like Gary Johnson. The Libertarian party was actually the first party that was pro-equality. They’re close to pro-equality & pro-liberty in every sense of the word than either Democrats or Republicans claim to be. I like their perspective on civil rights just like what you posted in one of your other comments. They’re all about less government intrusion in everyone’s life. More like “Live & live”. Do whatever you want as long as you’re not hurting anyone. I like that, I think that’s how it was always meant to be. I think they’re policies on most issues are the fairest for everyone of every walk of life regardless of race, orientation, poor, rich, business owner, gun lover, etc.

    The unfortunate thing is Libertarians have an unfair disadvantage in the election process. They don’t get the media coverage, they’re not included in the debates, and nobody ever hears anything about them. This is probably a good time for that to change as more and more people are becoming independents and for the most part during the political arguments we have amongst ourselves is arguing over which party is less bad. I would love to see more Independents and Libertarians win elections. I’m a little bit afraid of the green party though. I’m afraid they want to take away my big American V-8s. I care about the environment, but don’t mess with muscle cars! :-D

    I agree with you’re other post about government only doing civil unions. Leave marriages to churches. That would protect everyone’s civil rights and everyone’s religious freedom. I agree, that is the simplest and fairest approach for everyone. And leave it to the church to decide who they marry and who they don’t. If a church doesn’t want to recognize someone’s marriage, that’s up to them. But the people that are married determine if they’re “married” or not. They don’t need society or a church to tell them they are or aren’t. I am opposed to any religion ever being forced to perform a marriage that is against their beliefs. I just get really irritated when they say nobody can do it if it’s against their beliefs. There’s over a 100 religions that aren’t opposed to it, so what about their religious freedom?

  • Jack

    And don’t get me wrong, my only issue with the Mormon Church (and Catholic Church as well) is that they meddle in politics too much. I lived in Utah for a really long time and I have always been treated well by Mormons I can’t remember a time I’ve ever been looked down upon or treated like lesser of a person by them. They like to talk to me about their faith, but they haven’t ever tried to force me to live by it. I just want the church to stay out of the government and the government to stay out of church. If I could believe what they believe, I’d convert. But I don’t. And I just don’t want them (or any faith) forcing people to live by their religious beliefs by law. The younger generations seem to have a really good grasp on this. Some of us older folk, not so much.

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