Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
I was not expecting a decision in this case until next year, but apparenty the judge felt the law and the evidence were so compelling, why wait. U.S. District Court Judge Robert J. Shelby struck down Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage, saying the U.S. Constitution offers the same equal protection and due process rights to same-sex individuals to marry the person of their choice that it gives heterosexual individuals. Federal judge strikes down Utah ban on same-sex marriage:
"The state’s current laws deny its gay and lesbian citizens their fundamental right to marry and, in so doing, demean the dignity of these same-sex couples for no rational reason," wrote U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby in his 53-page decision (Scribd). "Accordingly, the court finds that these laws are unconstitutional."
In the ruling, Shelby enjoined the state from enforcing two different statutes that ban same-sex marriage as well as Amendment 3 to the state’s constitution, approved by Utah voters in 2004.
As news of the ruling broke, hundreds of people descended on county clerk offices around the state to request marriage licenses. At the Salt Lake County Clerk’s Office, a First Baptist pastor was on hand to conduct wedding ceremonies. Michael Ferguson, 32, and Seth Anderson, 31 were the first same-sex couple to receive a license there and be married.
Hours later, the Utah attorney general’s office appealed the decision to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver and also filed a motion asking Shelby to stay the ruling while it seeks to defend Utah’s Amendment 3.
"The federal district court’s ruling that same-sex marriage is a fundamental right has never been established in any previous case in the 10th Circuit," it said.
The appellate court handles cases for Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming and Utah. The New Mexico Supreme Court affirmed the right to same-sex marriage on Thursday.
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[A]ny marriage licenses issued before a possible stay is granted will be valid, according to a plaintiff’s attorney. But the state disputes that in its appeal.
Among those married in Salt Lake County on Friday afternoon: Kody Partridge, 47, and Laurie Wood,one of the three couples named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit that challenged Amendment 3.
The ruling is the first federal decision on a state law banning same-sex marriages or denying recognition of legal same-sex marriages since the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision this summer that struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
The Utah judge ruled just 16 days after he heard arguments in the case and well before his self-imposed deadline to render a decision by Jan. 7, when the next hearing in the matter was to be held, relying on extensive briefs filed in the case by both sides.
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Attorneys Peggy A. Tomsic and James E. Magleby, who represented the plaintiffs, hailed what they said was a historic, courageous decision to bring marriage equality to Utah for all same-sex couples "who desire to marry or have their legal marriage from another state recognized in Utah."
Word of the decision spread quickly, and Salt Lake County offices see a crush of same-sex marriages:
[Michael Ferguson and Seth Anderson] were the first of more than 100 gay couples issued marriage licenses Friday by Salt Lake County.
An hour after the first marriage, around 4 p.m., it was hard to walk through the halls of the Salt Lake County offices without interrupting somebody’s nuptials. Among those officiating marriages were Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker.
Utah Democratic Party Chairman Jim Dabakis and his partner, Stephen Justesen, joined the line for a license as TV news camera operators mobbed the clerk’s 200-square-foot waiting area.
"It’s taking all the romance out of it," Dabakis quipped.
Dabakis added that he is optimistic about Utah’s future, saying that most younger Utahns favor marriage equality.
Following the ruling by the New Mexico Supreme Court earlier this week in favor of marriage equality, the Washington Post ran this map of the status of marriage equality in the U.S. For now, you can color Utah purple. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments in the Nevada marriage equality case of Sevcik v. Sandoval (Case Nos. 12-17668, 12-16995, and 12-16998) early next year. This leaves Arizona as the only state in the Southwest yet to join the 21st Century. The effort to end state-sanctioned discrimination is well under way with Why Marriage Matters Arizona.