Utah: Gaining Equality & Losing Their Shit
You don’t have to believe in Christmas miracles to understand that when Federal Judge Robert Shelby, a 2011 Obama appointee, deemed the Utah ban on same sex marriage unconstitutional since the Supreme Court crippled DOMA this past summer, it was a miraculous event to the LGBTQ community in Utah (and every community in the United States), making it the 18th state to allow same sex marriage.
Less than 3 hours after Judge Shelby handed down his decision on December 20, 2013, the courthouse in Salt Lake City had issued several marriage licenses. SLC Mayor Ralph Becker ordered county clerks to stay open late into the night, and he himself officiated the marriage of Senator Jim Debakis, chairman of the Utah Democratic Party, to his husband Stephen Justesen, along with almost 3 dozen other gay couples. By the end of the night, members of the LGBTQ community were lined up down the streets waiting for county courthouses and county clerk’s offices to open the following morning, wanting to be among Utah’s first lesbian and gays to obtain marriage licenses. While they waited in the cold, the Boyscouts of America brought them pizzas, and allies and supporters brought coffee and donuts to help sustain the anxious humans waiting to be deemed equal and valid. There were also politicians working feverishly behind the scenes to try and get this decision halted, appealed and recalled.
Within 4 days of the Shelby ruling, 700 gay couples throughout Utah had obtained marriage licenses, and those opposed had generated a petition to halt the ruling with over 20,000 signature. But it was to no avail, regardless of protest and petitions, Judge Shelby refused to delay the processing of gay applicants while an appropriate appeal could be carried out. The Utah Supreme Court also decided that it could not rule on the case since it had already been decided in a lower court. The next move is a review by the Supreme Court Justice that presides over the district that contains Utah, which happens to be Justice Sonja Sotomayor. It’s looking more and more like Utah will remain the 18th state to allow gay marriage. This ruling will require an amendment to Utah’s constitution, which was amended in 2004 to specifically state that marriage is only between one man and one woman.