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Federal judge declares Utah same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional

LGBT Legal Cases Marriage equality Marriage Equality Trials

A federal district court judge has just declared that Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. The ruling comes after this month’s oral arguments in the challenge.

The decision is here.

There is no stay of the judge’s decision, so couples can apply for marriage licenses immediately. This is the first time a federal court has declared a same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional since the Supreme Court decided the Windsor decision striking down Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). It’s also the first time it has happened in a red state.

EqualityOnTrial will have more updates soon…

Thanks to Kathleen Perrin for this filing

92 Comments

  • 1. Anthony  |  December 20, 2013 at 1:16 pm

    Oh boy the fundies are not gonna be happy with this one…

  • 2. Bruno71  |  December 20, 2013 at 1:17 pm

    Right? One of the most deeply red states. Whereas in Hawaii & Nevada, we were ruled against at US District Court level. Just goes to show it all depends on to whom you present your facts.

  • 3. RAJ  |  December 20, 2013 at 1:19 pm

    This is going to be explosive for the Mormon Church.

  • 4. Dr. Z  |  December 20, 2013 at 1:25 pm

    OMG

  • 5. Matthew N  |  December 20, 2013 at 1:26 pm

    I think Scalia will be regretting his dissent in Windsor right about now ;)

    "The court agrees with Justice Scalia’s interpretation of Windsor and finds that the important federalism concerns at issue here are nevertheless insufficient to save a state-law prohibition that denies the Plaintiffs their rights to due process and equal protection under the law."

  • 6. bythesea  |  December 20, 2013 at 1:28 pm

    Uh…wut?!

  • 7. Anthony  |  December 20, 2013 at 1:30 pm

    To all my fellow gays out there: be aware of your surroundings. We are now into unchartered waters.

  • 8. Bruno71  |  December 20, 2013 at 1:30 pm

    So how will the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals rule on this? I wonder if we could have contrasting decisions out of the 9th and the 10th Circuits travel to SCOTUS together, or if the 10th might rule our way too.

  • 9. Roque Neto  |  December 20, 2013 at 1:30 pm

    Amazing times!

  • 10. StraightDave  |  December 20, 2013 at 1:33 pm

    Right in the court's introductory summary:
    "The State’s current laws deny its gay and lesbian citizens their fundamental right to marry "

    THEIR fundamental right

    Yeah, they have it too, same as everybody else. This is a non-trivial expression. No dancing around the issue or trying to split hairs. Words matter. This line will be quoted a lot, I'm willing to wager.

    Freaking Utah!!! OK, LDS, show what you're really made of. Gonna appeal this one?

  • 11. Bruno71  |  December 20, 2013 at 1:34 pm

    Throwing Anti's words back at him, nice job. Also, the ruling further declares that Baker vs. Nelson is no longer binding precedent.

  • 12. Dr. Z  |  December 20, 2013 at 1:37 pm

    HA HA HA HAHAHAHAHA. HA. [tears of laughter streaming down my face]

  • 13. USA, Utah: Federal Court &hellip  |  December 20, 2013 at 1:37 pm

    […] Equality on Trial reports: […]

  • 14. Guest  |  December 20, 2013 at 1:42 pm

    Who cares? Our rights were never theirs to grant or take away.

  • 15. Valquiria  |  December 20, 2013 at 1:44 pm

    Wow. I can't wait for the Mormon reaction. It will be really interesting to see how they play this.

    The 10th circuit is pretty evenly matched in terms of partisan makeup, so this could easily be upheld.

    Again, wow.

  • 16. RAJ  |  December 20, 2013 at 1:48 pm

    I'm reading that the judge did —NOT— stay his decision and people are applying for marriage licenses right now! Can anyone confirm this?

  • 17. FYoung  |  December 20, 2013 at 1:53 pm

    I didn't see this one coming. Wow.

  • 18. BREAKING: Utah’s Ma&hellip  |  December 20, 2013 at 1:57 pm

    […] Even better: […]

  • 19. Bruno71  |  December 20, 2013 at 1:58 pm

    Well I skimmed the judgment and there's nothing about a stay in there, so I'd assume that's correct. There should be an emergency stay requested with that judge any minute now, and if that's denied, shortly thereafter with the 10th Circuit.

  • 20. RAJ  |  December 20, 2013 at 2:00 pm

    On my facebook newsfeed there is a report of a photo showing a Utah same-sex couple with marriage license application in hand . . .

  • 21. Bruno71  |  December 20, 2013 at 2:04 pm

    They better get married quick. I wonder if there's a waiting period in Utah. It seems like a state that might have one.

  • 22. Rev. Will Fisher  |  December 20, 2013 at 2:04 pm

    One factor that correlates with states legalizing same sex marriage is whether or not the neighboring states do. NM yesterday and UT today bodes well for efforts in CO. Marriage, now legal at high elevations.

  • 23. Bruno71  |  December 20, 2013 at 2:12 pm

    My favorite highlights…

    "The court has already held that Amendment 3 burdens the Plaintiffs’ fundamental right to marriage and is therefore subject to strict scrutiny."

    "As a result, Baker v. Nelson is no longer controlling precedent and the court proceeds to address the merits of the question presented here."

    "The court agrees with Justice Scalia’s interpretation of Windsor and finds that the important federalism concerns at issue here are nevertheless insufficient to save a state-law prohibition that denies the Plaintiffs their rights to due process and equal protection under the law"

  • 24. MmM  |  December 20, 2013 at 2:12 pm

    what a joyous winter season !

  • 25. RAJ  |  December 20, 2013 at 2:14 pm

    I'm sure you're right — it would be thrilling if marriages actually happened immediately, but, I agree, it's not very likely.

    In the mean time, I can't imagine how active the cemeteries in Utah must be! — all those people spinning in their graves!

  • 26. Damien  |  December 20, 2013 at 2:17 pm

    I was convinced that Utah would be the last state for marriage equality. I'm speechless… HUGE congratulations to Utah! This is a very DEEP red state and it's a statement for what we can expect to see in the next 1-2 years.

  • 27. RAJ  |  December 20, 2013 at 2:20 pm

    There's the link: http://gaysaltlake.com/news/2013/12/20/breaking-u

    …and from the article:

    "St. George couple Marty Pendry and Brian Stuthers contacted the Washington County Clerk, asking for a marriage license and was referred to the Utah State Attorney General’s office, who replied, “I don’t feel comfortable answering your question on this,” and referred them back to their county clerk."

  • 28. RAJ  |  December 20, 2013 at 2:22 pm

    This is all happening so fast — also from the article:

    "Michael Adam Ferguson and J. Seth Anderson may well be Utah’s first gay couple to legally marry in the state of Utah. The couple, hearing that U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby has declared Utah’s Amendment 3 as unconstitutional, went to Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen’s office asking for a marriage license.

    “Our application for a marriage license was just accepted by the state of Utah,” Ferguson wrote on his Facebook wall."

  • 29. wkrick  |  December 20, 2013 at 2:22 pm

    Oh, snap!

  • 30. Dr. Z  |  December 20, 2013 at 2:27 pm

    Yep a lot of folks are going to get their magic underwear in a bunch.

  • 31. Whistleblower  |  December 20, 2013 at 2:28 pm

    Folks, I just called the Salt Lake City Marriage License Office and confirmed that Marriage Licenses *are* being issued as of right now! This will only help our side once the case is appealed to the 10th Cir. and likely the U.S. Sup. Ct.

  • 32. Gary  |  December 20, 2013 at 2:29 pm

    https://twitter.com/jsethanderson

  • 33. Dr. Z  |  December 20, 2013 at 2:30 pm

    Woo hoodoo!

  • 34. Ann_S  |  December 20, 2013 at 2:31 pm

    I'm so happy!

  • 35. Bruno71  |  December 20, 2013 at 2:33 pm

    Wow. And I've read there's NO waiting period in Utah. They could sneak their marriage in during the interim. Kind of like the one couple that did so in Iowa a few years back in between appeals.

  • 36. Anthony  |  December 20, 2013 at 2:38 pm

    Exactly. And BTW, ignore those duck dynasty idiots. It's all old, white, conservative religious people supporting them. The same demographic that is dying day by day. So don't be fooled by stupid stuff. This here is the future.

  • 37. RAJ  |  December 20, 2013 at 2:38 pm

    More reports coming in, this one from a lesbian couple.

    "At the Weber County Clerk – our marriage is now legally recognized in Utah!"

    I hadn't thought about Utah couples already married in marriage equality states now being recognized in Utah, which I'm assuming is what they're referring to.

  • 38. Bruno71  |  December 20, 2013 at 2:44 pm

    Yeah. Actually the plaintiffs in the case (at least one couple I think) had been married in Iowa and were demanding recognition in Utah.

  • 39. John  |  December 20, 2013 at 2:47 pm

    Wow, that's unexpected.

  • 40. Rich  |  December 20, 2013 at 2:50 pm

    We live in exciting times for the GLBTQ community in this country. Just this week, my GSA high school group cheered the news of NM as our 17th equality state….or is it 18? What a wonderful quandary to be in….hard to keep track of the actual number of free states.

  • 41. jpmassar  |  December 20, 2013 at 2:53 pm

    It's not at all obvious to me that, given Windsor and the New Mexico ruling, that a stay would be granted. Just how great is the likelihood of success at his point? And where is the irreversible harm? Sure, stays were granted in Prop 8, but that was before Windsor, and they never said why they were willing to grant the stays.

  • 42. davep  |  December 20, 2013 at 2:54 pm

    WHOA!!…… Ba-da-BAAMMM!!

    "FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT" and

    "BAKER IS NO LONGER CONTROLLING PRECEDENT"………

    This is excellent news. Just excellent!

  • 43. davep  |  December 20, 2013 at 2:55 pm

    Awesome!!

  • 44. Bruno71  |  December 20, 2013 at 2:58 pm

    I think it's more likely there'd be no stay this time than in the past, but I still think the 10th will exercise more "caution" than the NJ & NM state courts. For one, the 10th is a more split court ideologically, so there's no guarantee of likelihood. For another, this is Utah, not New Jersey or New Mexico. We'll see, let's keep our fingers crossed that a stay never materializes.

  • 45. Rik  |  December 20, 2013 at 3:00 pm

    Remember the 9th circuit ruling was vacated, so we don't have one from them yet. They are hearing the Hawaii and Nevada one though (even though Hawaii is moot)

  • 46. Steve  |  December 20, 2013 at 3:05 pm

    Both of those cases had Mormon judges.

  • 47. Bruno71  |  December 20, 2013 at 3:05 pm

    Yes, I know. But I'm 100% sure the 9th will rule in favor of equality in the Nevada case.

  • 48. RAJ  |  December 20, 2013 at 3:09 pm

    Here is the official response of the LDS Church:

    “The Church has been consistent in its support of traditional marriage while teaching that all people should be treated with respect. This ruling by a district court will work its way through the judicial process. 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.”

  • 49. alan  |  December 20, 2013 at 3:20 pm

    I checked with the salt lake county clerks office and they are indeed issuing marriage licenses.

  • 50. Steve  |  December 20, 2013 at 3:21 pm

    Oh the irony of this coming from a polygamist cult

  • 51. RAJ  |  December 20, 2013 at 3:25 pm

    I know — I always liked the careful wording:

    "a man and a woman" instead of "ONE man and ONE woman".

  • 52. Dr. Z  |  December 20, 2013 at 3:28 pm

    Twitter is reporting that the line is out the door in SLC and several couples are already married. The DA tried to stop them but failed.

  • 53. davep  |  December 20, 2013 at 3:29 pm

    I just LOVE this part:
    In its briefing and at oral argument, the State was unable to articulate a specific connection between its prohibition of same-sex marriage and any of its stated legitimate interests.

    At most, the State asserted: “We just simply don’t know.”

    This argument is not persuasive.

    http://www.sadtrombone.com/

  • 54. Matt227  |  December 20, 2013 at 3:33 pm

    Utah has the best coverage of local ENDAs with 43% of the population protected.

  • 55. Glenn I  |  December 20, 2013 at 3:34 pm

    No stay! So no delay. People are marrying right now. Wow. No stay. Isn't that a first?

  • 56. Bruno71  |  December 20, 2013 at 3:35 pm

    That's only valid when comparing it to the other 28 states without ENDAs. Nevada & Hawaii have state level ENDAs. Still, it's great progress, and I'll admit the LDS church have softened their stance on gay rights issues.

  • 57. jpmassar  |  December 20, 2013 at 3:51 pm

    Utah AG To Seek Stay, Will Appeal
    http://joemygod.blogspot.com/2013/12/utah-ag-to-s

  • 58. jpmassar  |  December 20, 2013 at 3:53 pm

    NM = 17th state. Does not include DC.

    ME, NH, VT, MA, CT, RI, NY, NJ, DE, MD, IL, MN, IA, CA, WA, HI + NM

    and DC

  • 59. Valquiria  |  December 20, 2013 at 3:58 pm

    Here's hoping for another Jersey-style denial of stay.

  • 60. RAJ  |  December 20, 2013 at 3:59 pm

    I'm seeing video on my Facebook newsfeed, right now, of gay couples getting married in Utah — looks like there are hundreds of people in line in another video and reports of people vowing to stay all night if they have to, to get married.

    If a stay happens, I hope a lot of people made it under the wire.

  • 61. Arie  |  December 20, 2013 at 4:16 pm

    At this pace, NOM might have to write a script for their press releases that just fills in the right court and the right state. They probably will have a hard time keeping-up with all the condemnation…

  • 62. Equality On TrialUtah mar&hellip  |  December 20, 2013 at 4:20 pm

    […] an appeal of today’s decision striking down the ban. Earlier today, a federal district court ruled that the ban is unconstitutional. There is not yet an application for a stay of the district court […]

  • 63. Box Turtle Bulletin &raqu&hellip  |  December 20, 2013 at 4:36 pm

    […] an appeal of today’s decision striking down the ban. Earlier today, a federal district court ruled that the ban is unconstitutional. There is not yet an application for a stay of the district court […]

  • 64. SoCal_Dave  |  December 20, 2013 at 4:50 pm

    This is unbelievable!
    I'm surprised we haven't heard from Greg from SLC yet.
    Maybe he's busy getting married!?!?!

  • 65. grod  |  December 20, 2013 at 5:39 pm

    Mathew: Reference to Justice Scalia's opinions in Windsor and in Lawrence are found throughout this decision.

  • 66. grod  |  December 20, 2013 at 5:47 pm

    RAJ: re: the status of the Karen and Kate's Iowa's wedding – I assume their marriage is today recognized in Utah.

  • 67. StraightDave  |  December 20, 2013 at 6:05 pm

    In other words…."you know, those guys were just full of shit. And I'm not stupid."
    Finally, somebody calls them on their BS. Even "rational basis" has to have a drop of rationality in it.

  • 68. StraightDave  |  December 20, 2013 at 6:07 pm

    or smoking pot in Temple Square :)

  • 69. grod  |  December 20, 2013 at 6:12 pm

    Glen In NJ Judge Mary Robinson refused to grant a stay. The reasoning is compelling reading. http://www.judiciary.state.nj.us/samesex/Order_St

  • 70. David UT  |  December 20, 2013 at 6:50 pm

    Marriages were performed earlier today in Salt Lake City

  • 71. David UT  |  December 20, 2013 at 6:51 pm

    DA Sim Gill said "Just Do It!"

  • 72. David UT  |  December 20, 2013 at 6:56 pm

    Yup. . . several marriages already performed including State Senator (and Utah State Democratic Party Chair) Jim Dabakis and his spouse Stephen Justesen by SLC Mayor Ralph Becker.

  • 73. Carpool Cookie  |  December 20, 2013 at 7:30 pm

    I usually try to be cordial…but I'm happy to say, "Suck It, Christianist Utah!"

  • 74. Carpool Cookie  |  December 20, 2013 at 8:20 pm

    Wow! COOL!!

  • 75. Paul s  |  December 20, 2013 at 8:28 pm

    My high school, classmates that were southern baptists would quickly point out that Mormons aren't Christians.

  • 76. Bruno71  |  December 20, 2013 at 8:40 pm

    Southern Baptists make Mormons look like hippies.

  • 77. Christian  |  December 20, 2013 at 8:51 pm

    But doctrinally, Mormons arenas Christians because they don't adhere to the Apostolic and Nicean Creeds.

  • 78. Christian  |  December 20, 2013 at 8:52 pm

    *arent't

  • 79. davep  |  December 20, 2013 at 9:47 pm

    HEY! It's Carpool Cookie! Heeeey Grrrrl ! Long time no see!

  • 80. Matt  |  December 20, 2013 at 10:48 pm

    In my view, this court's ruling is a death knell for opponents of marriage equality. It smacks down practically every legal argument that has been used to deny or argue against marriage equality in the past. I've been predicting that marriage equality would be the law of the land by the end of this decade, but after reading this ruling, I'm starting to believe it could well happen by the time the next Congress is sworn in in 2015.

  • 81. Zack12  |  December 20, 2013 at 11:24 pm

    That's because of the backlash from Prop 8. I expect to see that boil to the surface now.

  • 82. Rose  |  December 21, 2013 at 12:26 am

    Which also was NOT granted…….lol and Christie saw the writing on the wall and dropped his appeal!!!

  • 83. Lynn E  |  December 21, 2013 at 2:31 am

    Some of my friends were among the couple's married on Friday night. Even the Mormon owned Deseret News website is posting photos of the ceremonies and couples.

  • 84. StraightDave  |  December 21, 2013 at 6:17 am

    This is more like the old reliable Deseret News… a major editorial rant largely disconnected from reality. http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865592839/Judi

    Almost every paragraph is a flat out falsehood or ill-informed misinterpretation. Might as well have been written by NOM, and does not serve the UT citizens well. In the civilized parts of the country, this nonsense is 10 years out of date.

  • 85. Paul in Minneapolis  |  December 21, 2013 at 7:49 am

    Utah??? Whose Mormon population funded California's Prop H8? LMGAO – I LOVE Karma!!!

  • 86. USA, Utah: Federal Court &hellip  |  December 21, 2013 at 8:27 am

    […] Equality on Trial reports: […]

  • 87. Richard Weatherwax  |  December 21, 2013 at 9:05 am

    The Apostolic and Nicean Creeds are not in the Bible, therefore they should not be a determining factor in who is, or is not, a Christian.

  • 88. Mike in Baltimore  |  December 21, 2013 at 6:23 pm

    Ironic that the LDS calls for marriage to be between "a man and a woman."

    Especially since from "1852 until 1890, Mormon Church leaders preached and encouraged members, especially those in leadership positions, to marry additional wives."
    (http://historytogo.utah.gov/utah_chapters/pioneers_and_cowboys/historyofpolygamy.html , a web page that seems to be VERY sympathetic to the LDS.)

  • 89. weshlovrcm  |  December 21, 2013 at 10:34 pm

    There was no "respect" for gay Californians when those lying, hideous Prop. 8 commercials ran every 15 minutes on our TV's in 2008!

  • 90. Equality On TrialDistrict&hellip  |  December 23, 2013 at 10:49 am

    […] Robert Shelby, the federal district court judge who struck down Utah’s same-sex marriage ban, has just denied the state’s request for a stay of his […]

  • 91. Equality On TrialDistrict&hellip  |  December 23, 2013 at 3:27 pm

    […] Robert Shelby, the federal district court judge who struck down Utah’s same-sex marriage ban, has just granted the state’s request for a stay of his […]

  • 92. Equality On TrialSupreme &hellip  |  January 6, 2014 at 7:51 am

    […] ban is unconstitutional, based in part on the Windsor opinion itself; the Utah decision came down on December 20. The state immediately filed its notice of appeal to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, and […]

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