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Kathy Harbin, left, and her spouse Michelle Call hold their children Louis Harbin-Call, 6 months, and Leo Harbin-Call, 2, as they speak during a news conference Friday, Feb. 28, 2014, at the Utah State Capitol, in Salt Lake City. Utah officials say in a new court filing that they have no choice but to put a freeze on granting benefits to newly married gay couples until a federal appeals court rules on the state's same-sex marriage ban. Parents affected by the announcement, along with their attorneys, spoke during the news conference. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Editorial: No wrecking ball needed to fell Amendment 3

Same-sex marriage ban about to fall

First Published Mar 17 2014 05:03 pm • Last Updated Mar 18 2014 03:28 pm

"All successful revolutions are the kicking in of a rotten door." — John Kenneth Galbraith

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The state of Utah — or, more precisely, its stable of expensive hired guns — has made its final written plea to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in its desperate attempt to preserve the state’s anti-gay marriage referendum, Amendment 3.

As an attempt to defend the indefensible, the filing is astounding — though far from alone — in its denial of just how quickly the consensus of the civilized world has changed on this issue. If these arguments are the best that Utah’s all-star legal team could come up with, the state would have been better off to just save its money and concede, along with the attorneys general of, so far, seven other states, that the debate is over.

The brief, filed Friday, breathlessly describes its defense of Amendment 3 as an attempt to protect the state, and its power to limit the definition of marriage, from the "unprincipled judicial wrecking ball" that was hurled at it by last year’s federal district court ruling overturning that initiative as unconstitutional.

But, as Professor Galbraith explained, social change doesn’t require anything so monstrous as a wrecking ball. Just a pair of sensible shoes. And a door that was about to cave in anyway.

The stupefying thing about the state’s final written brief — oral arguments are set for April 10 — is that the hinges it tries to hang its old door on are little more than an irrational fear that, should same-sex couples be allowed to share the legal benefits and responsibilities of state-sanctioned marriage, that will somehow cause widespread and destabilizing changes in the way heterosexuals behave, form attachments, care for children and other important things that they have been doing, pre-Amendment 3, for thousands of years.

As if the human predilections for love, bonding and reproduction, evolutionarily hard-wired into darn near everybody, would suddenly be swept aside by opening the institution of civil marriage to a minority of people whose lives would be immeasurably benefited, at no cost to anyone else.

Further, the state’s argument that the recognition of same-sex marriage risks a dangerous drop in the human birth rate assumes two equally absurd ideas. One, that gay people don’t have children (they do) and, two, that how many children people have is any of the state’s business (it isn’t).

If this is all its defenders have, Amendment 3 is on its way out. And not a moment too soon.


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