Utah’s same-sex marriage ban struck down

SALT LAKE CITY — A federal judge struck down Utah’s same-sex marriage ban Friday in a decision that marks a drastic shift toward gay marriage in a conservative state where the Mormon church has long been against it.

The decision set off an immediate frenzy as the clerk in the state’s most populous county began issuing marriage licenses to gay couples while state officials took steps to appeal the ruling and halt the process.

Cheers erupted as the mayor of Salt Lake City led one of the state’s first gay wedding ceremonies in an office building about three miles from the headquarters of the Mormon church. Dozens of other couples were lined up to get marriage licenses.

Deputy Salt Lake County Clerk Dahnelle Burton-Lee said the district attorney authorized her office to begin issuing the licenses but she couldn’t immediately say how many had been issued.

Just hours earlier, U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby issued a 53-page ruling saying the constitutional amendment Utah voters approved in 2004 violates gay and lesbian couples’ rights to due process and equal protection under the 14th Amendment. Shelby said the state failed to show that allowing same-sex marriages would affect opposite-sex marriages in any way.

“In the absence of such evidence, the State’s unsupported fears and speculations are insufficient to justify the State’s refusal to dignify the family relationships of its gay and lesbian citizens,” Shelby wrote.

The decision drew a swift and angry reaction from Utah leaders, including Republican Gov. Gary Herbert.

“I am very disappointed an activist federal judge is attempting to override the will of the people of Utah. I am working with my legal counsel and the acting attorney general to determine the best course to defend traditional marriage within the borders of Utah,” Herbert said.

The state filed a notice of appeal late Friday and was working on a request for an emergency stay that would stop marriage licenses from being issued to same-sex couples.

“It will probably take a little bit of time to get everything in place,” said Ryan Bruckman, a spokesman for the attorney general’s office. Bruckman said the judge told the attorney general’s office that it would be a couple of days before he would review any request for an emergency stay.

The ruling has thrust the judge into the national spotlight less than two years after Congress approved his nomination to the federal bench. Shelby was appointed by President Barack Obama after GOP Sen. Orrin Hatch recommended him in November 2011.

Shelby served in the Utah Army National Guard from 1988 to 1996 and was a combat engineer in Operation Desert Storm. He graduated from the University of Virginia law school in 1998 and clerked for the U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Greene in Utah, then spent about 12 years in private practice before he became a judge.

Many similar challenges to same-sex marriage bans are pending in other states, but the Utah case 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.

The church said in a statement Friday that it stands by its support for “traditional marriage.”

“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,” the church said.

The Utah ruling comes the same week New Mexico’s highest court legalized gay marriage after declaring it unconstitutional to deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples. A new law passed in Hawaii last month now allows gay couples to marry there.

If the ruling stands, Utah would become the 18th state to allow gay marriages, said Jon Davidson, director of Lambda Legal, which pursues litigation on LGBT issues nationwide. That’s up from six before the U.S. Supreme Court last summer struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act that defined marriage as between a man and a woman. The District of Columbia also allows same-sex marriage.

“The momentum we are seeing is unprecedented in any human rights struggle,” Davidson said. “To have this fast a change in the law and in public opinion, is quite remarkable.”

State Sen. Jim Dabakis, chairman of the Utah Democratic Party, was one of the first to get married in Salt Lake City with his longtime partner, Stephen Justesen.

“Do you, Jim, take Steven, to be your lawfully wedded spouse?” the mayor asked during the ceremony, shortly before a celebration erupted.

Marriage ceremonies were being performed once every few minutes in the lobby of the clerk’s office, each one punctuated by hoots and hollers from the large crowd.

Brian Morris let out a loud yelp after getting married to his partner, who dissolved into tears.

“I’m so exicted,” Morris yelled. “I love you.”

But at the Utah County clerk’s office in Provo, same sex-couples were still denied marriage licenses.

Patsy Carter, 42, and her partner of eight years, 39-year-old Raylynn Marvel, said they went to the office immediately after hearing about the ruling but the clerk said they office was still reviewing the ruling and consulting with the county attorney.

Carter said the ruling was still a positive step and she believes Utah County, considered one of Utah’s most conservative, will eventually have to start granting the licenses.

“If my marriage licenses could say, ‘Provo, Utah,’ that’s probably the most epic contradiction ever,” she said.

Utah’s lawsuit was brought by three gay and lesbian couples, including one that was legally married in Iowa and just wants that license recognized in Utah.

One of the couples that brought the case, Moudi Sbeity and Derek Kitchen, were roasting eggplants for a farmers market Saturday when their lawyer, Peggy Tomsic, called them with the news.

“We had a positive feeling after the hearing on Dec. 4, but it’s still a surprise to hear it,” Sbeity said. “We’re excited and happy and hopeful to see what happens what next.”

During the nearly four-hour hearing on the case, attorneys for the state argued that Utah’s law promotes the state’s interest in “responsible procreation” and the “optimal mode of child-rearing.” They also asserted it’s not the courts’ role to determine how a state defines marriage, and that the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling doesn’t give same-sex couples the universal right to marry.

Another of the couples, Laurie Wood and Kody Partridge, said they were elated.

“I’m just kind of in shock. My brother called and said, ‘When are you getting married?” said Wood, 58, an English professor Utah Valley University.

In the ruling, Shelby wrote that the right to marry is a fundamental right protected by the U.S. Constitution.

“These rights would be meaningless if the Constitution did not also prevent the government from interfering with the intensely personal choices an individual makes when that person decides to make a solemn commitment to another human being,” Shelby wrote.

———

Follow Brady McCombs at https://twitter.com/BradyMcCombs . Associated Press writers Paul Foy and Michelle Price contributed to this report.

ad-high_impact_4
News
Tate Elementary shows academic progress after categorical funding
Students at Tate Elementary in Las Vegas has benefited from a program to boost education funding in targeted student populations, known as categorical funding. One program called Zoom helps students who have fallen below grade level in reading. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Three Square helps TSA workers
Three Square Food Bank donated over 400 care bags to TSA workers affected by the government shutdown Wednesday, filled with food, personal hygiene products and water.
Las Vegas furniture store donates to Clark County firehouses
Walker Furniture donated new mattresses to all 30 Clark County firehouses in the Las Vegas Valley, starting today with Station 22. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Mount Charleston Gets Heavy Snow, Fog
Mount Charleston saw heavy snow today, and fog in lower elevations as a cold front swept across the Las Vegas Valley. (Benjamin Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Krystal Whipple arrested in Arizona
Krystal Whipple, charged in the killing of a Las Vegas nail salon manager over a $35 manicure, is expected to return to Nevada to face a murder charge.
Holocaust survivor on acceptance
Holocaust survivor Celina Karp Biniaz, who was the youngest person on Schindler’s List, talks about the most important message for people to understand from her life and experiences.
Holocaust survivor speaks about telling her story
Holocaust survivor Celina Karp Biniaz, who was the youngest person on Schindler’s List, tells of opening up about her experiences during Sunday’s event at Temple Sinai.
Jesus Jara State of the Schools address
Clark County School District Superintendent Jesus Jara delivers his State of the Schools address on Friday, Jan. 11, 2019. (Amelia Pak-Harvey/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Michael Naft sworn in to Clark County Commission
Michael Naft, chosen by Gov. Steve Sisolak to be his replacement on the Clark County Commission, was sworn into office on Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019. (Shea Johnson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES Opening Party in Omnia Nightclub at Caesars Palace
CES conventioneers packed Omnia Nightclub at Caesars Palace, and let loose as they danced to DJs into the night. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Las Vegas police piecing together details of fatal shooting
Six hours after the fact, Las Vegas homicide detectives worked to reconstruct the scene of a shooting early Jan. 7 that left one man dead in the southeast valley. (Rio Lacanlale/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Dyer Lawrence explains college football playoff system proposal
Las Vegan Dyer Lawrence has a new idea for a college football playoff system that includes a unique scheduling component called National Call Out Day. (Ron Kantowski/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Death row inmate Scott Dozier found dead in his cell
Nevada death row inmate Scott Dozier is dead. Dozier’s death ends his legal odyssey, which began in 2007 when he was convicted in the 2002 murder of Jeremiah Miller, but does little to clarify what’s next for Nevada’s death penalty.
I-15 southbound near Primm closed after ‘major crash’
A rollover crash Saturday morning involving at least nine vehicles on southbound Interstate 15 near Primm caused an hourslong traffic delay. Traffic was backed up to Sloan, live traffic cameras show. (Rio Lacanlale/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Death Valley visitors deal with shutdown
Visitors staying at the Furnace Creek Campground were forced to move from the campground following health and safety concerns due to lack of resources during the partial government shutdown at Death Valley National Park in Calif., on Friday, Jan. 4, 2019. Richard Brian Las Vegas Review-Journal @vegasphotograph
Half of homicides in Henderson for 2018 domestic violence related
Lt. Kirk Moore of the public information office of the city of Henderson police department speaks to the Review-Journal in Henderson, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019. Henderson saw a slight increase in homicides in the past year. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Governor-elect Steve Sisolak stops by Las Vegas Boys and Girls Club
Governor-elect Steve Sisolak kicks off his tour to Carson City, which will take him from Las Vegas, through Tonopah, and up to the capital city. First stop is the Downtown Boys & Girls Club.
Certificates for renewing wedding vows in Clark County
The Marriage License Bureau in Clark County began issuing a Certificate of Vow Renewal to married couples who are renewing their wedding vows on Jan. 3, 2019. (Shea Johnson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas flu season better than last year (so far)
Dr. Fermin Leguen, chief medical officer and director of clinical services at the Southern Nevada Health District, said there were 24 flu-related deaths at this point in the flu season. No deaths have been reported so far this year. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
The Las Vegas Valley’s First Baby of 2019
The first 2019 baby in the Las Vegas Valley was Melialani Chihiro Manning, born at 12:10 a.m. at Henderson Hospital. (Briana Erickson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas NYE Fireworks - VIDEO
The full show: A spectacular view from the rooftop of the Trump International Hotel as 80,000 pyrotechnics illuminated the Las Vegas Strip at the stroke of midnight. Fireworks by Grucci choreographed launches from the Stratosphere, the Venetian, Treasure Island, Caesars Palace, Planet Hollywood, Aria and MGM Grand.
Snow in Henderson on New Year's Eve morning
Light snow flurries in Anthem Highlands in Henderson on Monday morning, the last day of 2018.
Sources: Henderson Constable may face more charges
Henderson Constable Earl Mitchell may face additional charges ... stemming from his spending of county funds, sources said. Mitchell was indicted earlier this month on five felony theft and fraud charges ... after a Las Vegas Review-Journal story questioned his spending. But grand jury records show even more extensive spending including ... an $800 dinner at steakhouse ... nearly 200 atm withdrawals mostly at gambling establishments ... and even Disneyland tickets. But his attorney plans to ask a judge to dismiss the charges.
Las Vegas NYE Restrictions and Enhanced Security
If you are planning to celebrate New Year's Eve on the Las Vegas Strip or Fremont Street, be aware that you are not allowed to bring backpacks, coolers, strollers or glass. There will also be an increase in security to ensure safe celebrations across town.
Catholic Charities serves up 53rd annual Christmas dinner
Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada and more than 100 volunteers served 1,000 Christmas meals to Southern Nevada's homeless and less fortunate. (K.M. Cannon Las Vegas Review-Journal @kmcannonphoto)
Henderson couple adds another school to their generosity
Bob and Sandy Ellis of Henderson, who donate to several Clark County School District schools, have added Matt Kelly Elementary in Las Vegas to their list of schools where every student gets new shoes, socks and a toy. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Jeffrey Martin Added To Nevada's Black Book
Martin was one of four men convicted of theft and cheating at gambling in 2016 in Clark County District Court and sentenced to prison. The Nevada Gaming Commission voted unanimously Thursday to include Martin in the black book.
Raiders Stadium Timelapse
Construction on the new Raiders stadium continues in Las Vegas.
Buffalo Wild Wings security video
Security footage from a Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant in southwest Las Vegas captured a driver who repeatedly crashed into a vehicle in a failed attempt to squeeze into a tight parking spot.
The Magical Forest at Opportunity Village
Opportunity Village's Magical Forest added 1 million lights and a synchronized music show visible from all over the forest this year. The holiday attraction, which began in 1991, has a train, rides, food and entertainment along with the light displays. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like