US District Judge Robert J. Shelby has issued a ruling stating that Utah’s gay marriage ban, which was passed by voters in 2004, violates the rights of gay and lesbian couples’ to equal protection under the 14th Amendment.
The 14th Amendment requires that individual rights take precedence over states’ rights whenever these two interests are in conflict. The Judge noted that Utah failed to show how allowing same-sex marriages would in any way affect opposite-sex marriages, therefore making the state’s fears groundless and insufficient to justify denying same-sex marriages. He stated “the state’s current laws deny its gay and lesbian citizens their fundamental right to marry and, in so doing, demean the dignity of these same-sex couples for no rational reason.”
Utah is now the 18th state in America to legalise gay marriage. One gay couple wasted no time and live tweeted their marriage soon after the ban was struck down, becoming the first same-sex couple to be married in Utah.
Although same-sex marriage has been successfully legalised in 17 other states, this is a surprising outcome for the socially conservative state of Utah; home to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; an organisation that is strongly against same-sex marriage.
The state Attorney General’s office is in the process of appealing the ruling and is also seeking an emergency stay to prevent same-sex marriages from taking place in the state. Their official press release can be viewed here.