The Facts: On December 20, 2013, a federal judge in Utah ruled that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, citing in part the 14th Amendment and the US Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Windsor. Typically in these cases, the state would file a pre-emptive stay with the judge in case they lose the case, which would prevent same-sex marriage until an appeal could be heard. Due to an oversight by the Utah Attorney General, this never happened and same-sex marriages started being held almost immediately. Stays were denied by the federal judge himself and the 10th Circuit of Appeals; however, on January 6th, after ~1,300 gay couples were married, the US Supreme Court (unanimously) stepped in and put a stay until the 10th Circuit could hear the case on an expedited basis.
On January 9th, the Republican governor of Utah, Gary Herbert, put the recognition of those marriages on hold pending the outcome of the case. That begged the questions: Are those marriages valid? Will they be undone if the states’ ban is upheld? Should Utah recognize them as married? Will the federal government recognize them as married? Today, January 10th, US Attorney General Holder here said the federal government will recognize those married performed for federal purposes only.
The Spin: Utah is the latest battleground in the country’s fight over same-sex marriage. Conservatives are decrying this “activist” federal judge as going against the citizens of Utah who overwhelming voted to ban same-sex marriage in 2004. Liberals tout this decision as the march toward equal rights, similar to that of the civil rights movement, and minority rights should never have been put up for a vote. They claim attitudes in Utah, and around the country, have shifted in those 9 years, and in fact, the judicial branch of the government’s exact purpose is to judge the constitutionality of laws passed by voters or legislatures, despite their popularity.
Chiou On This: The country is in the midst of rapid change regarding same-sex marriage. All the polls suggest that people’s attitudes are shifting on this matter at a pace never before seen for a cultural issue. Young people overwhelming support marriage equality so the demographics suggest it’s only a matter of time before this becomes law throughout the country (whether it’s by voters, legislatures, or courts). Regarding Utah specifically, we think the US Supreme Court is treading carefully on this matter and wanted the case to really work it’s way through the system — not any indication of how it will vote on the constitutionality of same-sex marriage bans. If the Utah AG had their act together, we believe a stay would have been granted on December 20 anyway. Ultimately, we believe Conservatives are on the losing end of this battle. The US Supreme Court will ultimately decide the fate of all state same-sex marriage bans, whether it’s this case or another. There’s a lot more to come on this case and for the same-sex marriage debate.
Whatchu Think: Do you agree with Utah’s governor not to recognize the marriages until the case is resolved? Should the US Supreme Court have granted the stay?