Friday, December 20, 2013

LDS Church Reaffirms Support For Traditional Marriage After Unelected Federal Judge Strikes Down Utah's Voter-Approved Constitutional Prohibition Against Gay Marriage

Despite the fact that 66 percent of Utah voters voted in favor of Amendment Three in 2004, which led to Utah constitutionally defining marriage as being only between one man and one woman, an unelected Federal judge decided on December 20th, 2013 to disregard the will of the people and invalidate Utah's definition of marriage. U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby ruled that its definition of marriage violates rights to due process and equal protection as set forth in the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In response, Gov. Gary Herbert instructed the Attorney General to file an emergency appeal to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, while the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a statement reaffirming its continued support for traditional marriage. On the other hand, Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill confirmed that, in light of the ruling, he saw no reason to prohibit the county clerk's office from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and as many as 120 gay couples swarmed upon the county clerk's office to obtain licenses, with many staying to marry on the spot. Clerks in Utah, Weber and Davis counties initially said they were not issuing licenses pending instruction from county attorneys, but Davis County Attorney Troy S. Rawlings later told his clerks to abide by the ruling. While Washington County issued marriage licenses to two gay couples, Utah County turned away several same-sex couples.

-- Read the 53-page Kitchen et al v Herbert court decision HERE.

Update December 22nd: On this date, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals denied Gov. Herbert's Emergency Motion for Temporary Stay of Judge Shelby's decision because it neither addressed nor satisfied the factors that must be established to be entitled to a stay pending an appeal. The Salt Lake Tribune reports that the 10th Circuit Court couldn’t rule on a stay since Judge Shelby hadn’t acted on the same motion also before him. However, the denial is without prejudice, meaning the defendants-appellants can still file another motion for stay pending appeal if it complies with regulations. The state has now filed another motion for a stay to be heard by the full Circuit Court, and the full court is not expected to make that decision for at least a few months. Read the two-page court document HERE.

Update December 23rd: On this date, U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby denied Utah's request for a stay, saying that the state had only regurgitated the arguments he had already thrown out. Assistant attorney general Phil Lott said the lack of stay leaves Utah in chaos, and Acting Attorney General Brian Tarbet said the state would seek an emergency motion for a stay from the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver forthwith, adding that the state would consider going to the U.S. Supreme Court if the 10th Circuit doesn't grant a stay.

After Utahns approved Amendment 3 in 2004, their verdict was incorporated as Article 1, Section 29 of the state constitution:

(1) Marriage consists only of the legal union between a man and a woman.
(2) No other domestic union, however denominated, may be recognized as a marriage or given the same or substantially equivalent legal effect.

The Litigants: Gay couple Derek Kitchen and Moudi Sbeity and lesbian couple Laurie Wood and Kody Partridge filed a lawsuit challenging the amendment in March 2013 after Salt Lake County denied them marriage licenses. Karen Archer and Kate Call, who were legally married in Iowa, joined the suit because Utah does not recognize their marriage as valid. Citing U.S. Supreme Court civil rights cases Brown v. Board of Education, which desegregated schools in the South, and Loving v. Virginia, which invalidated laws banning interracial marriage, as well as the Supreme Court decision gutting the Defense of Marriage ACT (DOMA), the plaintiffs contended that for the same reasons the Fifth Amendment prohibits the federal government from differentiating between same-sex and opposite-sex couples, the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits state governments from making this distinction. The State of Utah, with Gov. Gary Herbert, then-Attorney General John Swallow, and Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen, argued that that the federal government cannot intrude upon a state’s decision not to recognize same-sex marriage, meaning that it is up to each individual state to decide whether two persons of the same sex may occupy the same status and dignity as that of a man and woman in lawful marriage.

Summary of Initial Ruling: Judge Robert Shelby, who was appointed to the bench by Barack Obama, swallowed the plaintiffs arguments and said that the state of Utah provided no evidence that opposite-sex marriage would be adversely affected in any way by same-sex marriage, concluding that in the absence of such evidence, the state’s speculations are insufficient to justify the state’s refusal to dignify the family relationships of its gay and lesbian citizens. He added that the U.S. Constitution protects the plaintiffs’ fundamental rights, which include the right to marry and the right to have that marriage recognized by their government. Furthermore, Judge Shelby noted that any regulation adopted by a state, whether related to marriage or any other interest, must comply with the Constitution of the United States, and so he decided the issue was not who should define marriage, but the more narrow question of whether Utah’s current definition of marriage is permissible under the Constitution. Since Judge Shelby concluded that Utah's current law 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, he ruled the law unconstitutional. By the way, the unofficial word is that Judge Shelby is not LDS.

The Upshot: Because of Judge Shelby's ruling, Utah is now, as of this post, officially the 18th state to have legal gay marriage. However, if the ruling is stayed, the ban will be reinstituted while the legal fight continues and no more marriage licenses will be issued. A plaintiff’s attorney said marriage licenses issued to that point will be valid, but the state said marriages would be declared invalid if its appeal succeeds.

Governor Gary Herbert issued the following statement:

“I am very disappointed an activist federal judge is attempting to override the will of the people of Utah. I am working with my legal counsel and the acting attorney general to determine the best course to defend traditional marriage within the borders of Utah”.

And the LDS Church weighed in with the following statement issued through spokesman Cody Craynor:

"The Church has been consistent in its support of traditional marriage while teaching that all people should be treated with respect. This ruling by a district court will work its way through the judicial process. We continue to believe that voters in Utah did the right thing by providing clear direction in the state constitution that marriage should be between a man and a woman and we are hopeful that this view will be validated by a higher court."

Although there's no indication that any pastor, priest or bishop would be forced to solemnize gay marriages as a result of this ruling, Utah House Majority Leader Brad Dee (R-Ogden) said he has served in positions as a mayor and LDS Church bishop where he had the authority to marry people and wondered if refusing to marry someone based on his deeply held religious beliefs would be considered discrimination. Undoubtedly that's coming next, but the Gay Mafia is smart enough to feed the sheep only spoonfuls of political correctness at a time.

Additional Reaction: Strong disapproval expressed on LDS Freedom Forum. But jdawg1012 read the four-hour transcript of the summary judgment hearing, and characterized the state's defense as a "joke". Denver Snuffer merely posted Alma 10:27, which states "And now behold, I say unto you, that the foundation of the destruction of this people is beginning to be laid by the unrighteousness of your lawyers and your judges."


Ben L. Kemer said...

I don't mind, and personally my own prayers pretty much confirm not to worry about either polygamy or SSM becoming church doctrine. The state and national government will throw in it's option like it did with abortion to all 50 states years ago, and the church will once again have a wider difference from the world at large than it already does. There's something good about the restored gospel principles that makes them somehow pretty hard to emulate by offshoots and other religions in general alike. Then, by the time that people realize that the church is still somehow going on, it will be a lot like the Grinch Stole Christmas, and hopefully some people just calm down, pacify themselves a little bit, and just accept that their neighbors are there to stay.

Jack Mormon said...

Ben -- I also don't believe SSM will ever become Church doctrine; unlike plural marriage, there's absolutely no scriptural precedence for it.

What's really irksome is that an unelected judge can overrule the freely expressed will of 66 percent of the people.

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