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Utah reacts after US Supreme Court rules same-sex marriage is legal

Utah reacts after US Supreme Court rules same-sex marriage is legal
Posted at 8:26 AM, Jun 26, 2015
and last updated 2015-06-27 11:07:33-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- Hundreds of people gathered to celebrate the historic ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that made same-sex marriage legal nationwide.

The court's ruling resonated in Utah, the first state to see its ban overturned by the courts that started the tsunami that stretched across the nation.

"Look at Utah! Look at what we have accomplished! Look at what we have achieved!" Equality Utah director Troy Williams shouted to the cheering crowd Friday night.  "We are the first red state to overturn a gay marriage ban! And like dominos they fell!"

Hundreds gather at a rally celebrating the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on same-sex marriage on Friday.

Hundreds gather at a rally celebrating the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on same-sex marriage on Friday.

It was three couples who sued Utah in 2013 for the right to marry, challenging Amendment 3 -- which defined marriage as between a man and a woman and did not recognize anything else. In the first ruling since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Shelby struck down Amendment 3.

The state appealed through the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, who refused to hear the case in October making same-sex marriage legal in Utah.

On Friday, some of those plaintiffs felt joy at the ruling -- but did not believe the U.S. Supreme Court's historic ruling was a result of theirs.

"We don’t feel a sense of ownership, but we do feel a sense of community and belonging," Amendment 3 plaintiff Moudi Sbeity, who recently married his husband, Derek Kitchen, told FOX 13.

Derek Kitchen (left) and his husband, Moudi Sbeity, in an interview with FOX 13's Ben Winslow on Friday.

Derek Kitchen (left) and his husband, Moudi Sbeity, in an interview with FOX 13's Ben Winslow on Friday.

Kody Partridge and her wife, Laurie Wood, hugged at the Utah Pride Center and told reporters the ruling was "a great day for all families."

"We have always felt wed, whatever the country or the state said," said Partridge. "But it matters because we love each other and we want to protect each other."

Others in the state decried the ruling.

"I am disappointed with the decision by the court to usurp state authority and overrule the voice of the people of Utah as demonstrated by legislation with regard to marriage," Governor Gary Herbert said in a statement. "I am also very concerned with the overwhelming trend to diminish state autonomy. I believe states should have the right to determine their own laws regarding marriage. Clearly, the majority of the justices disagree and their decision provides finality with respect to the law."

[Read the full statements from others at the bottom of this story]

The Utah Attorney General's Office said that since marriage equality had been instituted in October with the U.S. Supreme Court's decision, nothing would change.

"We’ve been doing that since October, so for us really there’s no change on the ground," said the Utah Attorney General's Federal Solicitor Parker Douglas. The Federal Solicitor said he had heard no complaints from clerks since same-sex marriage was allowed.

Douglas defended the decision by Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes' office to fight the Amendment 3 case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"It’s our duty to defend any law that’s challenged for constitutionality," he told FOX 13. "Just as we defended Amendment 3 and the laws that were attached to it."

A modified version of the state flag is shown at a rally celebrating the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on same-sex marriage.

A modified version of the state flag is shown at a rally celebrating the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on same-sex marriage.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which, like Utah, filed a friend-of-the-court brief opposing same-sex marriage with the U.S. Supreme Court, reiterated its opposition to same-sex marriage.

"The Court's decision does not alter the Lord's doctrine that marriage is a union between a man and a woman ordained by God. While showing respect for those who think differently, the Church will continue to teach and promote marriage between a man and a woman as a central part of our doctrine and practice," it said in a statement.

Here is what other Utah leaders have to say about the decision:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: 

"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints acknowledges that following today's ruling by the Supreme Court, same-sex marriages are now legal in the United States. The Court's decision does not alter the Lord's doctrine that marriage is a union between a man and a woman ordained by God. While showing respect for those who think differently, the Church will continue to teach and promote marriage between a man and a woman as a central part of our doctrine and practice."

The Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City:

"Today the Supreme Court of the United States decided state marriage bans are unconstitutional, meaning all states will perform and recognize same-sex marriage.

This decision, though significant, does not conclude debate over the definition of marriage. As the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City responded when U.S. District Court Judge Robert J. Shelby struck down Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage, so we again affirm our pastoral response.

As Catholics, we seek to uphold our traditional belief in marriage as a sacrament, a well established and divinely revealed covenant between one man and one woman, a permanent and exclusive bond meant to provide a nurturing environment for children and the fundamental building block to a just society.

At the same time, we respect the dignity of all persons, not wishing to undermine their pursuit of happiness but only to preserve and defend the gift of marriage as divinely revealed in scripture and in natural law. Although we respectfully disagree with those who would define marriage otherwise, we firmly hold that all persons are loved by our compassionate God and deserve the respect and dignity that is inherently theirs as human beings.

We acknowledge the right of our nation’s highest court to provide for a well ordered society by establishing laws that protect the common good and safeguard the civil and contractual rights and privileges of its citizens. At the same time, we urge our lawmakers and judges to respect those institutions that are beyond state and federal jurisdiction, institutions such as sacramental marriage that transcend civil law and whose origins precede the existence of the state and go beyond its competence."

Governor Gary Herbert:

"Marriage, as defined by the people of Utah, has been redefined, first by the federal courts and today the outcome of that decision has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. I am disappointed with the decision by the court to usurp state authority and overrule the voice of the people of Utah as demonstrated by legislation with regard to marriage. I am also very concerned with the overwhelming trend to diminish state autonomy. I believe states should have the right to determine their own laws regarding marriage. Clearly, the majority of the justices disagree and their decision provides finality with respect to the law."

Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker:

"This is a historic day for our country, the state of Utah and our community as the Supreme Court appropriately extends the right of marriage to every loving couple across the land.

The joy we are feeling in Salt Lake City is palpable and I am personally grateful for this incredible affirmation of our civil rights and the elimination of the contrived legal barriers that have unnecessarily divided us in the past. This moment brings to mind Martin Luther King, Jr.'s immortal words, "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."

We should all pause today and remember the courageous stance taken by local couples who refused to be content with the second-class status that was imposed on them and took their fight to the courts-laying the groundwork for first overturning Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage and then playing a critical role in the groundswell that led to today’s ruling.

I will never forget that day, just a year-and-a-half ago, when I had the privilege to be a part of the first window of opportunity for every Utah couple to signify their love and commitment through the right of marriage. Today, all those feelings are back and I look forward to this overdue recognition being a giant step in the ongoing fight for equality, compassion and inclusion for every person, everywhere.”

Senator Orrin Hatch:

“The issue of same-sex marriage involves deeply held convictions on all sides of the debate. While I oppose discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, I do not support redefining the fundamental nature of marriage as between a man and a woman. But now that the Supreme Court has spoken, I will do everything in my power to ensure that this decision does not infringe on important concerns such as our fundamental right to the free exercise of religion.”

Rep. Chris Stewart:

"In light of today’s ruling by the Supreme Court to legalize same-sex marriage, we must remember to treat each other with kindness and love.”

 “I personally believe that marriage is best defined between one man and one woman and I wish that the courts would have deferred to the states on this divisive issue. Moving forward, we must now work to protect the rights guaranteed in the First Amendment respecting the establishment of religion and allowing the free exercise thereof."

Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams:

“I’m pleased and happy that our nation’s highest court has ruled on marriage equality.  As Justice Kennedy stated in his opinion, “The right of same-sex couples to marry is derived from the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection.” This decision enshrines what I’ve long believed – that all families should be treated equally under the law.

Today’s decision is a milestone but not the end of the search for common ground, mutual respect and understanding among Utah’s many diverse communities.”

Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes:

"Throughout this case, the State made its best arguments to allow decisions about the fundamental nature of marriage to be decided through the democratic process and at the state level, avoiding a situation similar to Roe v. Wade from a generation ago. We understand many are thrilled with today’s outcome and many are equally disappointed. Regardless of one’s opinion of the ruling, the High Court has provided the guidance our office and the citizens of Utah and this nation have sought for several years. Advocacy on both sides helped bring us to this point of resolution. While people of goodwill on all sides of this issue have been at times divided and conflicted, we have an opportunity to come together again as equal citizens of this great state and nation.

After today, some questions remain regarding how this decision affects various individual situations and state agency operations in Utah beyond the specific issues addressed today by the Court. Our legislature, governor and state agencies will need to address these issues to provide greater clarity. In a significant way, they have already begun to draw a balance with legislation respecting religious freedoms and legislative protections for the LGBTQ Community. Should such freedoms and protections come under constitutional challenge, our office will do its duty and defend them just as we defended Amendment 3 and related laws. This is an important part of the legal process and fulfillment of our oaths.”

Troy Williams - Executive Director of Equality Utah:

"This is a tremendous achievement for freedom, equality and love. Today millions of American families can now celebrate that our country is truly dedicated to happiness, liberty and justice for all."

Utah Pride Center: 

"The Utah Pride Center is thrilled with the Supreme Court decision granting full marriage equality across the United States. Strong families are a hallmark value of our state, and this ruling provides constitutional clarity that the rights of individuals and of LGBTQ families are protected by the same ideals for which our country’s founders fought..

While Utah LGBTQ couples have had full equal rights within the state, they can now travel or move across the entirety of their country knowing their status doesn’t change by crossing a border, that they are equal everywhere they go. Today we stand with all the current families, and future families, throughout the United States who are now equal in the eyes of the law of their country."

Libertas Institute: 

"Our LGBT friends have good reason to be happy today, but those concerned about our laws and legal structure have great cause for alarm. As Chief Justice Roberts said in his dissent, 'The majority’s decision is an act of will, not legal judgment. The right it announces has no basis in the Constitution or this Court’s precedent… Just who do we think we are?'

"Today's opinion—and let's be clear, that's all it is—provides an opportunity for lawmakers to reconsider their long-standing support for government intervention in such an important societal relationship. In the coming months, we will be encouraging elected officials to consider a proposal to repeal government licensure of marriage, allowing churches, notaries public, and others to privately officiate and sanction these unions.

"Despite what some lawyers think, there is no 'fundamental right' to a government permission slip. The long-standing violation of the sacred union of marriage—encouraged by those looking to shape society to match their vision—needs to be fixed."

Mormons for Equality: 

"This is a beautiful day for so many families and we applaud the Court's ruling. But our work is not done. Alongside changing the laws, we must continue to change hearts." said Spencer W. Clark, Executive Director of Mormons for Equality. "For over two decades Mormons have feared - and fought - civil marriage equality. It will take time to overcome and repent of our past, but as we've seen already, the more that we come to know same-sex couples and their children, the more we discover that our fears were misplaced. Mormons believe in the importance of families, and for increasing numbers of Mormons, that means all families."

Celebration of Marriage: 

"The credibility of the judicial system has been permanently damaged as it concluded that adult relationships are so important that children must give up their relationship with their own mother or father when it comes into conflict with gay marriage. The Supreme Court has turned a blind eye to a child’s need for both a father and mother. This causes irreparable rifts in every aspect of family law, from custody battles in divorce courts, to adoptions that idealize motherless and fatherless family structures. The resulting fracture of family law will weaken Americans’ natural respect for the Court and turn the question of children’s legal relationships into an unresolvable and painful chaos."

Jackie Biskupski, former state lawmaker and candidate for SLC Mayor:

"Today the Supreme Court has confirmed in law what many of us have felt for so long in our hearts, that the promised equality of the Constitution is to each person above any regard for race, creed, color, gender, or sexual orientation. With this ruling the Court has clearly stated that our LGBT community is equal to any other.

Our hearts are also filled with tremendous gratitude to the many thousands of people who have suffered, sacrificed and worked for so long to bring us to this day; that suffering and sacrifice will not be forgotten.

While so many of us celebrate this momentous step toward full equality, we are mindful that there is still much work to do. We are also mindful of our neighbors who disagree with us and for whom this ruling will be challenging. Let us move forward to heal divisions, even for those who do not yet join in our celebration today. As this day clearly shows, with time hearts do change."

Luke Garrott, Salt Lake City Councilman and candidate for SLC Mayor:

"I am overjoyed this morning to see love prevail across the country, and in Utah. The SCOTUS ruling shows that we live in a society that can progress and grow, even on issues that are controversial and divisive. I am proud to have been a part of increasing LGBT equality in Salt Lake City through housing and employment non-discrimination ordinances, and I believe that we can continue to make improvements to make SLC a great place to live for all people."

Rep. Rob Bishop:

“The decision from the Supreme Court was wrong and it was made the wrong way. As is the case in countless issues of governance, states are so-often better suited to act on behalf of the people. The US Constitution makes no mention of marriage and therefore the matter should have been left to the states. Chief Justice Roberts said it best when he wrote in his dissent, ‘If you are among the many Americans—of whatever sexual orientation—who favor expanding same-sex marriage, by all means celebrate today’s decision … But do not celebrate the Constitution. It had nothing to do with it.’” Rep. Bishop added, “If the consequences of this decision present a threat of religious liberties, I stand ready to fight for the people’s right to practice their faith without government interference.” 

Senator Mike Lee:

“Today five Justices took a vital question about the future of American society out of the public square, imposing the views of five unelected judges on a country that is still in the midst of making up its mind about marriage,” Lee said. “That is unfortunate, but it is not the end of the discussion, as Americans of good faith who believe that marriage is the union of a man and a woman will continue to live as witnesses to that truth. “
 
“I am nonetheless heartened by the majority’s reassurance that the religious liberty rights of all Americans, including those who advocate a traditional view of marriage, must be protected. As Justice Kennedy states in the decision, ‘the First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths, and to their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they have long revered. The same is true of those who oppose same-sex marriage for other reasons.’”
 
“Our focus now must be on defending these crucial rights of conscience. That is exactly why Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) and I have introduced the First Amendment Defense Act, which would prevent the federal government from discriminating against anyone who believes that marriage is a union between one man and one woman."

Rt. Rev. Scott B. Hayashi, Episcopal Diocese of Utah:

"I am joyful that all can now share in the sacred unity of marriage. I am especially happy for the children of LGBT parents who now can enjoy equal standing with their friends whose parents are heterosexual. Because I firmly believe all are made in God’s image, I have been praying and hoping for today’s decision to recognize marriage equality throughout our land. At the same time, I know that the Supreme Court decision is of great and troubling concern to many good people. I ask that we also offer prayers and thoughts for those who find the decision difficult.  This is a time to heal some profound scars that have been magnified by debate."