Commentary: Marriage equality will arrive in Utah soon
Utah's ban on same-sex marriage was doomed the moment the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act last June. This is not simply the opinion of advocates for equality. It was the conclusion of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, who grudgingly acknowledged "the view that this Court will take of state prohibition of same-sex marriage is indicated beyond mistaking."
The constitutional law of this country now protects the fundamental rights of all citizens and LGBT families are no longer strangers to the law.
That being true, the arrival of marriage equality in Utah is no longer beyond the horizon. On Friday, motions for summary judgment were filed in a federal court case calling for the invalidation of Amendment 3, Utah's ban on same-sex marriage.
The state of Utah currently enforces a comprehensive system of laws that denigrate LGBT Utahns through every stage in life. From the moment a child has an inkling of being gay, during adolescence, throughout adulthood and all the way to the grave, LGBT Utahns are haunted by state laws that deny their existence, demean them as lesser human beings, and denigrate their lives and family relationships.
Amendment 3, which denies same-sex couples access to the rights, responsibilities, and benefits of civil marriage, is the lynchpin of Utah's system of discrimination. It not only prohibits the recognition of gay relationships but also effectively prohibits gay couples from jointly adopting children they are raising.
Fortunately, Utah's Amendment 3 appears destined to be invalidated by the courts and tossed into the dustbin of history. As Justice Scalia recognized, "The [Supreme Court's] majority [ruling] arms well every challenger to a state law restricting marriage to its traditional definition."
The U.S. Supreme Court held that it was unconstitutional for the federal government to discriminate against gay citizens by adopting a definition of marriage that excluded gay couples. The logic and reasoning of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision applies equally to Utah's attempt to exclude the LGBT community from the institution of marriage. The federal Defense of Marriage Act and Utah's Amendment 3 are equally unconstitutional.
So unmistakable was the Supreme Court's decision that state attorneys general in other states have decided that marriage discrimination provisions are now indefensible and unjustifiable. Unfortunately, Utah's attorney general has decided to waste taxpayer resources in a doomed effort to defend Utah's unconstitutional discrimination against LGBT citizens.
The U.S. Supreme Court considered and rejected the same set of tropes that the State of Utah is now using to defend Amendment 3. There can be no doubt that the invalidation of Amendment 3 was preordained by the Supreme Court's decision against the Defense of Marriage Act.
Utah is fortunate to have uniformly excellent judges on its federal bench. The judges of Utah's federal district court are conscientious, careful, and committed to applying the law as established by the highest court in our land.
Utahns should have confidence that these jurists, justified by the rule of law and their respect for the Constitution, will faithfully apply and sustain the law and will issue decisions borne not from personal views or personal preferences, but from the Constitution and decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Justice Scalia, certainly no friend of marriage equality, has thrown up the white flag of surrender and acknowledged how federal district courts are now obliged to rule. As Justice Scalia wrote, "How easy it is, indeed how inevitable, to reach the same conclusion with regard to state laws denying same-sex couples marital status."
The inevitable will soon become reality when Utah's federal district court applies the Supreme Court's ruling to Utah's discriminatory Amendment 3. Marriage equality is coming soon to Utah, and our state will be a better place when the LGBT community no longer suffers from discrimination and second-class citizenship.
Paul C. Burke, John W. Mackay, and Brett L. Tolman filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of the Utah Pride Center and a national coalition of equality groups earlier this year in its marriage cases.