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"Additionally, protecting the First Amendment and religious institutions’ rights and ability to uphold and act in accordance with their beliefs and principles must be a priority," he said.
Other politicians applauded the ruling. Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker, who said he revisited the joy he felt when he married 35 couples in December, noted Utah’s key role in a legal process that may affect the entire nation.
The state "is playing a leading role in one of the major issues in our day for social justice" Becker said. "For me, it is exciting."
Utah legislator Jim Dabakis, who is openly gay and was married in December, said of the ruling: "I am joyous, as I know hundreds of thousands of LGBT folks and their families are, all across the great state of Utah. This is a pro-family decision and it fits squarely with true Utah family values — love, kindness and a fair playing field for all. It’s wonderful to see Utah once again lead the country in gay rights."
The Democratic candidate for Utah attorney general, Charles Stormont, said that as attorney general, he would immediately drop the appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, because it is "an enormous waste of money and we should be fighting to protect people’s rights, not to take them away."
Religious groups were split on the ruling.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released a statement saying: "The Church has been consistent in its support of marriage between a man and a woman and teaches that all people should be treated with respect. In anticipation that the case will be brought before the U.S. Supreme Court, it is our hope that the nation’s highest court will uphold traditional marriage."
Meanwhile, a group called Mormons for Equality said many LDS Church members around the country were "celebrating today’s ruling as a positive step toward protecting more families and children in our society.
"We appreciate in particular that the judges clearly addressed the distinction between the civil and religious marriage, and affirmed that ‘religious institutions remain as free as they always have been to practice their sacraments and traditions as they see fit.’ "
And Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, released a statement saying the decision "has brought us one giant step closer to the day when all Americans will have the freedom to marry. This first federal appellate ruling affirms what more than 20 other courts all across the country have found: There is no good reason to perpetuate unfair marriage discrimination any longer."
John Mejia, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah, said in a news release, "This is a proud day for everybody in the state of Utah, and everybody across the country who supports marriage equality. "
The ACLU had submitted a "friend of the court" brief in support of the plaintiffs in the Kitchen v. Herbert lawsuit. The ACLU also has filed a lawsuit in Utah federal court seeking recognition of the marriages of same-sex couples who were wed during the 17-day period when they were legal.
The ruling generated excitement and joy at the Utah Pride Center, where supporters cheered, clapped and waved vibrant mini pride flags in celebration. Mark Lawrence, director of Restore Our Humanity, a legal defense fund backing the fight for the right of same-sex couples to marry, said he felt the plaintiffs would win.
However, he added, "It doesn’t sink in until they actually announce it and that’s what made it real and you can’t be prepared for that. It’s very surreal."
At a press conference at the Pride Center, members of the LGBT community directed messages at Herbert and Attorney General Sean Reyes.
"Stop spending millions of tax dollars to fight against LGBT families and instead ... secure their place on the right side of history and stand on the side of love and stand on the side of families," Christopher Wharton said.
Matthew Spencer, Restore Our Humanity communications director, said, "You swore an oath to support and obey, defend the Constitution of the United States. We call on you here and now to honor that promise. The courts have spoken. Honor your commitment. Defend the constitutional right of all Utah citizens."
And Stormy Simon, president of Overstock.com, which assisted in the funding for the case, also gave the state a message.
"To fight love is a bad, bad thing and that’s what I say to Governor Herbert," she said. "Quit fighting the inevitable."
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