Monday, January 6, 2014

U.S. Supreme Court Grants Stay Of Utah Gay Marriage Order; Trestin Meacham Ends Fast After 15 Days

On January 6th, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court put same-sex marriages in Utah on hold, granting the state’s request for a stay while it appeals a U.S. District Court ruling that Utah's constitutional prohibition against such marriages are unconstitutional. The court said the stay would be in place until the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver makes a decision on Utah’s appeal. The first briefs will be filed by the state on January 27th, a response from attorneys for the three gay couples who challenged the law is due by February 18th, and any subsequent reply from the state must be filed by February 25th. The state's fight is still projected to cost at least $2 million. The appeal was filed with Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who referred it to the full court. Justice Sotomayor has designated oversight over the 10th Circuit.

According to the Supreme Court's SCOTUS blog, the order appeared to have the support of the full Court, since there were no noted dissents. The ruling can be interpreted as an indication that the Court wants to have further exploration in lower courts of the basic constitutional question of state power to limit marriage to a man and a woman. Had it refused the state’s request for delay, that would have left at least the impression that the Court was comfortable allowing same-sex marriages to go forward in the thirty-three states where they are still not permitted by state law. But they caution that the order cannot be interpreted as a dependable indication of how the Court will rule on the issue when it finally decides to do so directly.

-- Read the one-page decision HERE.

In response, Trestin Meacham, an ordinary LDS member who previously ran for the Utah state legislature as a Constitution Party candidate, chose to end his 15-day fast. Meacham pledged to fast, consuming only water and vitamins, until Utah stopped performing same-sex marriages; since the Supreme Court ruling prohibits further same-sex marriages, his fast accomplished its advertise purpose. On his Twitter site, Meacham proclaimed initial victory, but said it's only a first step and still wants Utah to exercise nullification. Meacham also added that while he is opposed to same-sex marriage in principle, the reason for the fast was the unconstitutional nature of the ruling. He also said that another purpose of the fast was to "expose the hatred of the supposedly tolerant homosexual movement", which was expressed in spades. The Daily Mail reports that Meacham will give up football next time.

Unfortunately, the Supreme Court stay leaves same-sex marriages already performed in limbo. For example, can newly-minted gay couples file state taxes jointly, or must they continue to file individually? In response to this dilemma, Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes said "We don’t know the answer yet as to marriages already performed. Utah’s Office of the Attorney General is carefully evaluating the legal status of the marriages that were performed since the District Court’s decision and will not rush to a decision that impacts Utah citizens so profoundly. There is not clear legal precedent for this particular situation." Since California experienced the same problem during their Proposition 8 debate, Reyes should probably examine how they handled it as additional guidance.

Nevertheless, Utah Governor Gary Herbert was pleased with the Supreme Court decision, saying "Clearly, the stay should have been granted with the original District Court decision in order to have avoided the uncertainty created by this unprecedented change. As I have said all along, all Utahns deserve to have this issue resolved through a fair and complete judicial process. I firmly believe this is a state-rights issue, and I will work to defend the position of the people of Utah and our State Constitution".

The Salt Lake Tribune documented reaction from the ACLU and an assortment of gay rights lobbies. Of greatest interest is the reaction of the three same-sex couples who started this legal conundrum. Their attorney, James E. Magleby, merely stated "Every day that goes by, same-sex couples and their children are being harmed by not being able to marry and be treated equally". Yada, yada, yada. Just 24 hours earlier, the Tribune published an editorial basically advising the state to let it go, marginalizing the freely-expressed will of 66 percent of Utah voters in 2003 by suggesting that Amendment Three would not pass today. The Tribune also noted that the LDS Church has gone from actively participating in the marriage wars to simply explaining its own beliefs and practices, and on that basis, the Tribune proclaims that "the tide has turned".

Interesting that the Tribune doesn't propose a new election to see if voters really have changed their minds. But that's how progressives operate -- they like democracy when the vote goes their way, but prefer oligarchy when the vote doesn't go their way.

Positive response came from Gayle Ruzicka, president of the conservative Utah Eagle Forum, who also called for the estimated 900 homosexual marriages that were performed in the state before the stay to be summarily invalidated. The National Organization for Marriage was also pleased, characterizing Judge Shelby's original decision as "lawless", and adding that the Supreme Court's decision will allow the state to appeal in an orderly fashion. The LDS Church has not issued a new statement on this development; their previous statement on December 20th remains operative.


Michael Estey said...

Trestin Meacham is an idiot. Does he honestly think anyone cares. He could starve himself to death. No wonder he failed in his attempt to run for the legislature.

Same sex marriage is coming, like it or not.

Jack Mormon said...

Unfortunately, Michael, you're probably right. But if that happens, look for a renewed push for legalized polygamy. What a bucket of worms that will open. Would we place a limit on the number of wives? Would we restrict polygamy to men or allow women to take on multiple husbands?

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