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Saturday, Oct. 25, 2014

In our opinion: U.S. Supreme Court delivers second message, for Utah, on same-sex marriage requirement

Deseret News editorial

Published: Tue, July 22 12:00 a.m. MDT

 For the second time in seven months, the Supreme Court of the United States has been forced to weigh in, procedurally, on the legal contest surrounding the definition of marriage. In both cases, Utah has been seeking to uphold its democratic process.

For the second time in seven months, the Supreme Court of the United States has been forced to weigh in, procedurally, on the legal contest surrounding the definition of marriage. In both cases, Utah has been seeking to uphold its democratic process.

(Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

Message delivered — again.

For the second time in seven months, the Supreme Court of the United States has been forced to weigh in, procedurally, on the legal contest surrounding the definition of marriage. In both cases, Utah has been seeking to uphold its democratic process. And for the second time, the high court stayed lower federal court decisions jeopardizing Utah’s ability to define marriage as a union of a man and a woman.

To recap:

Dec. 20, 2013: U.S. District Court Judge Robert J. Shelby ruled the state’s Amendment 3 unconstitutional. At that time, Utah’s law was one of 29 states with constitutional amendments, and four states with laws, defining man-woman marriage as the law. Shelby did not stay his decision, and the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals refused to stay it, too. Some 1,300 marriages of same-sex couples were performed before the high court took action two-and-a-half weeks later.

Jan. 6: The Supreme Court issued a stay of Shelby’s ruling, reinstating the state constitutional ban on same-sex marriages and allowing it to continue until a ruling from a federal appeals court.

May 19: U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball ruled Utah must recognize marriage benefits for those same-sex couples who married between Dec. 20 and Jan. 6. He temporarily stayed his decision for 21 days, with the state appealing to the 10th Circuit Court to extend Kimball’s stay pending an outcome in the case.

June 5: The 10th Circuit Court extended the temporary stay against Kimball’s ruling regarding the status of the same-sex couples married within the 17-day period.

June 25: The 10th Circuit Court, on a 2-1 vote, upheld Shelby’s ruling. But it stayed its decision on this case until the matter is resolved by a petition to the Supreme Court. Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and Attorney General Sean Reyes have since said that they will seek this review.

July 11: The 10th Circuit Court - again in 2-1 a split decision – issued a decision lifted the stay in the case decided by Kimball. Although it ordered Utah to recognize the previously performed same-sex marriages, it did grant a narrow 10-day window for the state to seek a stay from the Supreme Court.

Which all led up to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor – the justice with responsibility for overseeing the 10th Circuit Court -- referring the matter to her fellow justices. On Friday, the Supreme Court issued a two-sentence order, once again overturning the judgment of the 10th Circuit Court and issuing a stay against Kimball’s judgment going into effect.

We expect that the Supreme Court will ultimately address the fundamental question in this case: Does the U.S. Constitution impose a requirement upon states to institute same-gender marriage?

Justices are understandably reluctant to become the arbiters of this major cultural battleground. But their constitutional role relative to the nation’s inferior courts requires them to damper the rush by federal district court judges to implicitly overturn Supreme Court precedents.

This latest Supreme Court action is encouraging. Utah’s marriage laws remain intact for now. We believe that other federal judges – district and circuit court – must show more caution on this issue until the high court reviews the fundamental question. We also believe that Utah will have the opportunity to defend its marriage laws before the Supreme Court.

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1. Outside-View
Federal Way, WA,
July 22, 2014

If Utah wants a marriage definition of being only between a man and a woman, then the State will also need to provide some type of civil union recognition with benefits pretty much the same as marriage.

CA Prop 8 provided the same benefits for gays, Lesbians and heterosexuals. If the Supreme Court was inclinded to support this defination and state right, why didnt they rule that way with Prop 8 instead of declining based on a technicality?

I think the end result is already determined.

2. firstamendment
Lehi, UT,
July 22, 2014

I still have no idea why Judge Shelby would ever think that governments and taxpayers have a responsibility to legally enforce, promote, etc. homosexuality. Gays are free to love, enter contracts, etc.
Healthy heterosexual relationships are crucial for our children, and for humanity. Anything that unnecessarily detracts from the sanctity marriage isn't good for us, and no judge should have so much power that they can force their opinions over government by the People and strike down our Constitution.
Gay marriage benefits only a few, and harms humanity in general, those who truly love should really think about everyone, rather than just what they want right now.

3. marxist
Salt Lake City, UT,
July 22, 2014

There was another great U.S. population which was denied the right to marry, and that was the black slave population. Black slavery was well established in the colonies by 1650. From then until the end of the Civil War in 1865 black slaves were denied marriage and the ability to form stable families. Think of it! The denial of the marriage privilege and slavery itself was justified with scripture, which scripture was eventually found to be completely baseless.

I suspect the justification for denying same sex marriage is to be found in scripture (that's why it is tied to religious freedom). Those who oppose same sex marriage should be thoroughly upfront about the basis for their opposition. They should cite specific scriptures.

One more thing. Is a scriptural support enough to support a freedom of religion argument, or does the scripture have be rational? I would argue that if the scripture is irrational, the argument fails.

4. Hugh1
Denver, CO,
July 22, 2014

What is winning? "This latest Supreme Court action is encouraging. Utah’s marriage laws remain intact for now." Intact, really? In law perhaps, but not in the world of public opinion. Try extending the timeline in the story in months and then try decades. Every two months or so gay marriage wins another battle, overcoming opposition mostly built on anti-gay stereotypes. Now, anti-gay marriage activists have retrenched to defending states rights - the best case scenario is a technical 5/4 Supreme Court decision ASAP. hence Utah's direct appeal. It is the threat of a future reversal that is Chief Justice Roberts' dilemma - outlaw gay equality, get reversed; support gay marriage, get attacked by the right-wing (including Scalia and Thomas). Best advice, punt. Same sex marriage is coming to states like Colorado soon, regardless. If winning is viewed as delaying same sex marriage, that's a possibility, but public opinion is on a two month cycle, and within decades, same sex marriage seems a certainty nationwide. So, is this winning?

5. Jeff Harris
Edmonds, WA,
July 22, 2014

Why are the State of Utah and the Deseret News overlooking the same message sent by each and every court that has heard a marriage-equality case post-Windsor? The message is, states cannot carve out an exception to the equal protection clause of the US Constitutions because a majority hates gay people.

For that matter, why are the State of Utah and the Deseret News overlooking the Supreme Court's similar message from Windsor? The US Government cannot carve out an exception to the due process clause of the US Constitution because a majority of congress members hate gay people.