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US: Utah judge strikes down equal marriage ban and same-sex couples begin to wed

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  1. That’s great news. But I wonder where the whole legal system in the US went tragically wrong? If it is unconstitutional now, then it was unconstitutional then. How is it that the US states are even able to enact discriminatory legislation? Have they done all this because of DOMA – did that set the precedent? How was that enacted at Federal level if it is now ruled unconstitutional? The US legal system does seem to be a mess. Is it the US, or 50 independent countries trying to appear to function as one?

    At the heart of all of this, the root cause, is religion, but thankfully a report suggest that white Evangelicals (a racist homophobic group) were allowed to have too much influence over secular law – that must not be allowed to happen again.

    1. http://www.scribd.com/doc/192787555/Utah-Same-Sex-Marriage-Ruling

      The problem of the States acting unconstitutionally has a long history. States with a history of institutional racist policies such as Virginia for example are mentioned in the Ruling. In the main, Republican politician’s will always play to the lowest common denominator and running throughout those individuals is a bedrock of irrationality and an inability to reason using facts as opposed to magical thinking. The arch bigot Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia gets a special mention in the Ruling because he correctly predicted that all the States in the Union must now fall in line with the Constitution. The fundamentalist religionists will scream and dance blue murder of course, they have lost the war of hate in the name of their unreasoning god, for the rest of us, reason and love has won the day.

    2. As I understand it, it’s because the legal system when it comes to state Independence and federal law are contradictory on the subject of equality. In a real democratic system there should be no opportunity for a majority of citizens to remove or infringe upon the rights of others when such law has no direct bearing on their own lives, but the states individually allow majority rule over equality and the rights issued to individuals. These are usually the more religious states.

      It’s clearly wrong, but the religious in the US use the “vote” subject to convince people that they are somehow being denied the right to democratic vote, when really equality for any group should not be down to a public vote to begin with.

      It’s the usual religious/Republican tactic, telling people their right to vote on something was ignored, while ignoring that equality and rights for others is not something a public should even be permitted to vote on.

      Cont…

    3. I think the real solution here should probably be for the Federal government to push for an amendment to the constitution making it harder for the individual states to implement laws based on moralistic or religious belief of the majority when such a law infringes upon the freedoms and rights of a specific group.

      This would do away with the power the religious have in the US, making it a truly secular nation. We’ve seen various examples of this from abortion debate to women’s health and LGBT rights too. The Republicans try to prevent others from having equality and freedom by convincing the public of a state that they have the right to vote on whether others should be equal, and what others should have.

      It should not be down to a popular vote when it’s an issue of an individuals rights and equality, but the Republicans want to keep it that way so that the US never becomes a secular nation and they maintain some religious governance based on their insanity.

      1. MarylandKid 22 Dec 2013, 7:18am

        We already have an amendment that makes it harder for the individual state to implement laws based on the moralistic or religious beliefs of the majority when such a law infringes upon the freedoms and rights of a specific group. In fact, we have two. The first amendment provides for formal separation of the church and state, while the fourteenth amendment guarantees all citizens equal protection under the law. Federal Courts cannot create law, they can only interpret pre-existing legislation in terms of its constitutionality. Our Constitution explicitly forbids the states from arbitrarily treating any one group unequally, which by extension is an endorsement of same-sex marriage. It is because these amendments exist that Federal Courts such as those in Utah, California and New Jersey have to power to strike down these laws in the first place.

    4. Eh… in many countries, it is the role of the Courts to determine if a law is constitutional ONLY WHEN it is challenged. That is to say, the Court cannot arbitrarily pick a law to rule on, someone with standing needs to bring a challenge. It seems you need to do a bit of research into federalism and how it functions. In many instances, the States may pass a law they don’t realize is unconstitutional. And many legal scholars do feel these laws are constitutional. Judicial Review acts a safeguard against an unruly legislature. This is not a luxury you have in the UK, where a court cannot overturn the act of Parliament. The UK practices parliamentary sovereignty which, outside of very few exceptions, makes that law outside the realm of judicial review. Parliament could very well pass a law tomorrow requiring everyone to wear a purple hat and there isn’t much that can be done except voting out those politicians the next election. In the US, such a law could be challenged.

      1. Robert in S. Kensington 21 Dec 2013, 2:45pm

        We may not have that luxury you describe and I doubt very much if we need it if you look at how we’ve gained equality rights in the UK via Parliament, including equal marriage with overwhelming majorities much more rapidly than what is happening in the U.S. and 33 more states to go in what will probably take years before it’s legal in all. Should not the Supreme Court when striking down DOMA have mandated all states allow SSM? If not, why not? Thankfully, we didn’t have to go through any of that here in the UK.

        1. Hmmm, I’d argue that we do need the “luxury” of courts being able to strike down laws which are contrary to our “constitution”. You might say we’re doing reasonably so far (debatable at best, I’d say, but specifically on rights for queer people we are much better off than most), but a proper system of checks and balances isn’t something we should be complacent about.

      2. Although you’re essentially right re UK law (see how when courts issue declarations of incompatability on human rights legislation it doesn’t actually compel parliament to change the law), the purple hat law could be challenged at the ECHR (freedom of expression) whose decisions are binding and states are overseen in changing the law even if the rulings don’t automatically annul the offending practice/legislation itself. Even then there’s the choice of opting out of the Convention.

        It really is time we drew up a proper version of one of those things in this country, what do you call them… a constitution?

        1. GingerlyColors 21 Dec 2013, 6:22pm

          A constitution sounds a good idea but it must be set in stone like the US Constitution and not be readily torn up on the whim of an incoming government like the Hungarian one.

    5. For a good and accessible discussion of the legal background on Judge Shelby’s decision and how it relates to Windsor, I recommend Rachel Madow’s discussion with NYU law professor Kenji Moshino:

      http://www.towleroad.com/2013/12/rachel-maddow-on-yesterdays-ruling-its-freaking-utah-video.html

    6. MarylandKid 22 Dec 2013, 7:37am

      You don’t seem to have a very good understanding of American Constitutional Law particularly well. Let me try and tackle a few of your points.

      The United States is Federation of semi-autonomous States. Each of the fifty States is legally subject to the Constitution of the United States; other than that they are free and distinct political entities that create their own laws. The Federal Court system is designed to ensure that the States fall in line with the Federal Government on constitutional matters. In other words, the States can do whatever they want, as long as it does not violate the Constitution or infringe upon Constitutionally mandated Federal powers, and this is enforced by the Courts.

      The Constitution of the United States guarantees all citizens equal protection under the law. What is happening now is that the Federal Government is pivoting in terms of their interpretation of this part of the Constitution, expanding this equal treatment to LGBT people. Continued -

  2. Good grief, American conservatives are so predictably hateful. Every time they get a ruling from a court which tells them they are irrational bigots, they cry “activist judge”. They remind me of little Johnny’s mum complaining that everyone else is out of step in the marching band except for him.

    1. Thankfully, they are losing power, and fast.
      When you look at the voting figures of the last election, the youth outright rejected the Republican party, the majority of Americans rejected the religious crusading they’d come to expect from the radicals within the party.

      As society evolves in the US, the Republican party will become less and less powerful. People have grown incredibly suspicious of them and their religious motivations.

      The Republican party has a fanatical Tea Party core, a religious group within trying to fight against the evolution of society. Unless the Republican party expels those radicals, and starts focusing solely on fiscal conservatism rather than religious insanity, they will never win another election.

      America has moved on and the Republicans are outdated, and increasingly being rejected by the people because of their religious stupidity.

  3. Totally stunned at this ruling, perhaps I should have kept a closer eye on the challenge to the ban in Utah. My partner moved from Utah to live with me in the UK, one of the most compelling reasons for not moving to Utah is the general attitude towards LGBT citizens. I hope this ruling holds however knowing the LDS church as I do, I have my doubts….

  4. Robert in S. Kensington 21 Dec 2013, 12:42pm

    It’s not really a done deal yet until the religious hate mongers’ appeal is heard and thrown out, assuming it will be. Since DOMA was struck down, it’s going to be hard for an appeal to succeed I would imagine.

    1. Unfortunately, I see this as being appealed all the way to SCOTUS. I would have liked a bit more time to get some states to overturn their constitutional bans at the ballot box (Colorado, Oregon, and Ohio, where we have a very real chance) and perhaps get the number closer to 25 but this could very well be the way for SCOTUS to find a constitutional right to marriage for same sex couples. I do wonder how a 10th Circuit Court ruling would impact the other States in its jurisdiction. This could impact Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, and Wyoming. (I left NM off of the list as it already has marriage.)

  5. When conservatives win in federal court it is always a triumph for the constitution and when they lose it is always because of activist federal judges. What do you know….

    1. Activist Judge is any judge that does not rule in your favor. So all judges are activist 50% of the time.

  6. The summary judgment by Federal Court judge Shelby is a joy to read in its well argued coverage of all possible propositions and even covers denial of religious liberty that state law and state constitutional amendment 3, negatively burdens.
    It runs to 53 pages, but is well worth reading in its entirity; it can be found here:
    http://www.scribd.com/doc/192787555/Utah-Same-Sex-Marriage-Ruling

    Congratulations Utah,
    I would not be at all surprised if the 10th circuit Appeals Court rejected an injuction to suspend the judgement, being requested by the Utah State Governor and Attorney General until the hearing of an Appeal of the Judgement. Similar to the NJ State Court, on the grounds that an appeal is unlikely to succeed and would irretrevably harm the plaintifs.
    It is good these right wing bigots have appealed the judgement, and are likely to get to the Supreme Court and thereby succeed in all 50 States having Equal Marriage rights against there worst fears. Way to go bigots.

  7. Many of us in Utah are euphoric at this recent development. Personally, I thought at least Arizona, Colorado and Nevada would get equal marriage before Utah. Most thought Utah would be the 50th state to do so. But Utah’s state attorneys made such embarrassingly weak arguments against equal marriage that the judge had an easy time poking holes through them and striking down the equal marriage ban.

    Locally, some Mormons (including my family) are celebrating…and most Mormons are very decidedly not. In a society of such painfully divided neighbors, we need communal peace and reconciliation now more than ever. We are all going to continue living here, and need that peace to help us continue with our lives. There are local groups actively working toward this goal – Affirmation, Mormons for Marriage, Mormons for Equality, and Mormons Building Bridges, just to name a few. The Utah Mormon youth are mostly already evolved – it’s their elders still kicking and screaming.

    1. yes well. I think sometimes it is necessary to have strife in order to have victory. Surely once you have left the church (as I assume you have if you were ever in it) it doesn’t matter any more) what religious nutters think.

  8. One should open a bet when will the last US state enable same-sex marriages. At this pace I give 2 years max.

    It’s like a “leaky bag”: when the defenders of traditional homophobia fix one hole, two more holes appear.

    1. GingerlyColors 21 Dec 2013, 6:12pm

      The chances are that the US Supreme Court will strike down any remaining State bans on same sex marriage as it did laws against homosexuality in 2003 (Lawrence vs. Texas). Prior to the 2003 ruling some 20 States still criminalized homosexuality so hopefully when the majority of US States legalize SSM then the Supreme Court will act.
      As for amending the US Constitution banning SSM this will not happen nowadays as it would need two-thirds of Congress to approve such an amendment followed by ratification by more than three-quarters of the States (therefore 38 or more of the 50 States) and with SSM now in 16 States any future Republican President, now matter how fundamentalist he is will have a fat cat in hell’s chance.

    1. “Utahns”, and thank you! :)

  9. This news story was brought to you by me
    I had to email PINK with a copy and paste other wise they would still be sleeping on the job

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