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The State of Gay Marriage in Utah

Same-sex marriage has been a topic of much debate in the State of Utah since last December, 2013, when U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby found that Utah State Code 30-1-2(5), which prohibited and declared void any marriages “between persons of the same sex” to be in contradiction “with the United States Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection and due process under the law. 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. Accordingly, the court finds that these laws are unconstitutional. (See Kitchen et. al v. Herbert, Case No. 2:13-cv-217 U.S. District Court, District of Utah, and Central Division. Since Judge Robert’s decision, the State of Utah has appealed both to the appellate court and the U.S. Supreme Court, where, on October 6th they decided not to review the case essentially removing the ban on same sex marriage.

Utah’s law against same-sex marriage finds its’ roots as a law in the Utah Code originally added in 1977 which states, “it is the policy of this state to recognize marriage as only the legal union of a man and a woman as provided in this chapter.” In 2004; however, the Utah legislature passed a joint resolution that directed the lieutenant governor, then Gayle McKeachnie, to submit Amendment 3 of the Utah Constitution to Utah voters. After the 2004 voting session (it was after a general public election by the voters of Utah), Amendment 3 was passed and added to the Utah Constitution.

Not unlike other law suits in the past, this latest lawsuit, Kitchen v. Herbert, was started by 3 same-sex couples that were not allowed, under Amendment 3, to get married in Utah. Kitchen’s case held that Utah’s 3rd Amendment infringed on the due process rights given them in the United States 14th Amendment. While the State of Utah maintained that it was the right of the state to define marriage according to the judgment of it’s’ citizens.

The first ruling by Judge Shelby took effect in December of 2013 where many same sex couples took the opportunity to get married, more than 1000 as reported by CNN. Throughout the appeals process; however, future same-sex unions were blocked and previously completed unions were not recognized. Because of the ruling by the Supreme Court on October 6th all previous unions and all future unions must be recognized in the State of Utah.

When does this gay marriage law go into effect in Utah?

According to the Freedom to Marry organization, the Supreme Court ruling, allowing same-sex couples to marry in Utah, was effective immediately on Oct. 6, 2014. The state began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples on that date.

Utahans Warming to the Idea of Gay Marriage

According to a survey done by the Benenson Strategy Group; 49 percent of Utahans support same-sex marriage, while 48 percent oppose it. It is also important to note that according to the same study, 20 percent of those who oppose same-sex marriage say that they would not oppose it if they knew that churches in Utah would not be required to perform or recognize same-sex unions. This survey found that 40 percent of people have become more open to same-sex marriage in the past several years.

According to Fox News in Salt Lake City, Utah, both the Governor and the Attorney General of Utah have accepted the ruling of the U.S. Supreme court in favor of same-sex marriage. Utah churches are also encouraging civility and kindness no matter what your stance is on same-sex marriage. Dallin H. Oaks, a prominent religious leader in Salt Lake City, though still opposed to same-sex marriage on religious grounds said, “When our positions do not prevail, we should accept unfavorable results graciously and practice civility with our adversaries. In any event, we should be persons of goodwill toward all, rejecting persecution of any kind, including persecution based on race, ethnicity, religious belief or nonbelief, and differences in sexual orientation.”

While some opposition continues, supporters of same-sex marriage held a wonderful celebration ceremony at Liberty Square in Salt Lake City. Supporters are extremely grateful for the dedicated work of Utah Unites for Marriage, Equality Utah, National Center for Lesbian Rights, the ACLU of Utah and the Freedom to Marry organization in these legal efforts. “We cannot thank you enough!” they said. Photos of the participants at the celebration, with tremendous smiles and tears of joy, show the immense gratitude for this achievement.

Other Information dealing with same-sex marriage

Many people are wondering how this decision will affect other laws that relate to same-sex marriage in the state of Utah. Adoption has the potential for change in Utah. According to current Utah State law (78B-6-117. Who may adopt — Adoption of minor), adoption now favors adoption for married couples that include both a man and a woman. Though the law state other qualifications other than the necessity to be married according to Utah law, it does says that for the benefit of the child, the adoptive agency or division will give preference to a man and a woman who are married. This will be a topic to look for in the future. (This provision only applies to cases where the children are in the custody of the State)

States That Allow Same-Sex Marriage

Though the fight over same-sex marriage seems to be over in Utah, throughout the United States there is still much controversy happening. Currently there are 20 states that are not allowing same-sex unions, which five of them are in the process of appealing a court ruling that is in favor of same-sex marriage. Though it seems the majority of the nation is moving towards a more accepting attitude about same-sex marriages, there will probably be more disputes along the way. It is difficult to imagine some states can ban same-sex marriage when this is unconstitutional in the majority of other states. Already, the IRS recognizes, as legitimate, same-sex marriages, performed in any state where they are legal, no matter where the parties choose to live afterwards.

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