Breaking: Utah’s Amendment 3 unconstitutional

Listen to this article

U.S. District Court Judge Robert J. Shelby has struck down Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage, saying it violates the U.S. Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection and due process. Utah is the first federal case ruled on since the U.S. Supreme Court struck California’s Proposition 8 and parts of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

“The court agrees with Utah that regulation of marriage has traditionally been the province of the states, and remains so today. But any regulation adopted by a state, whether related to marriage or any other interest, must comply with the Constitution of the United States,” Shelby began. “The issue the court must address in this case is therefore not who should define marriage, but the narrow question of whether Utah’s current definition of marriage is permissible under the Constitution.”

“Applying the law as it is required to do, the court holds that Utah’s prohibition on same-sex marriage conflicts with the United States Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection and due process under the law. 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. Accordingly, the court finds that these laws are unconstitutional,” Shelby ruled.

In his conclusion, Shelby wrote:

“In 1966, attorneys for the State of Virginia made the following arguments to the Supreme Court in support of Virginia’s law prohibiting interracial marriage: (1) “The Virginia statutes here under attack reflects [sic] a policy which has obtained in this Commonwealth for over two centuries and which still obtains in seventeen states”; (2) “Inasmuch as we have already noted the higher rate of divorce among the intermarried, is it not proper to ask, ‘Shall we then add to the number of children who become the victims of their intermarried parents?’”; (3) “[I]ntermarriage constitutes a threat to society”; and (4) “[U]nder the Constitution the regulation and control of marital and family relationships are reserved to the States.” Brief for Respondents at 47-52, Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967), 1967 WL 113931. These contentions are almost identical to the assertions made by the State of Utah in support of Utah’s laws prohibiting same-sex marriage. For the reasons discussed above, the court finds these arguments as unpersuasive as the Supreme Court found them fifty years ago. Anti-miscegenation laws in Virginia and elsewhere were designed to, and did, deprive a targeted minority of the full measure of human dignity and liberty by denying them the freedom to marry the partner of their choice. Utah’s Amendment 3 achieves the same result.” [Emphasis added by QSaltLake]

“Rather than protecting or supporting the families of opposite-sex couples, Amendment 3 perpetuates inequality by holding that the families and relationships of same-sex couples are not now, nor ever will be, worthy of recognition. Amendment 3 does not thereby elevate the status of opposite-sex marriage; it merely demeans the dignity of same-sex couples. And while the State cites an interest in protecting traditional marriage, it protects that interest by denying one of the most traditional aspects of marriage to thousands of its citizens: the right to form a family that is strengthened by a partnership based on love, intimacy, and shared responsibilities. The Plaintiffs’ desire to publicly declare their vows of commitment and support to each other is a testament to the strength of marriage in society, not a sign that, by opening its doors to all individuals, it is in danger of collapse.”

“The State of Utah has provided no evidence that opposite-sex marriage will be affected in any way by same-sex marriage. In the absence of such evidence, the State’s unsupported fears and speculations are insufficient to justify the State’s refusal to dignify the family relationships of its gay and lesbian citizens. Moreover, the Constitution protects the Plaintiffs’ fundamental rights, which include the right to marry and the right to have that marriage recognized by their government. These rights would be meaningless if the Constitution did not also prevent the government from interfering with the intensely personal choices an individual makes when that person decides to make a solemn commitment to another human being. The Constitution, therefore, protects the choice of one’s partner for all citizens, regardless of their sexual identity.”

“The court GRANTS the Plaintiffs’ Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. 32) and DENIES the Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. 33). The court hereby declares that Amendment 3 is unconstitutional because it denies the Plaintiffs their rights to due process and equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. The court hereby enjoins the State from enforcing Sections 30-1-2 and 30-1-4.1 of the Utah Code and Article I, § 29 of the Utah Constitution to the extent these laws prohibit a person from marrying another person of the same sex.” (Emphasis added.)

The case was brought forth by three same-sex couples in Utah: Derek Kitchen and Moudi Sbeity, Karen Archer and Kate Call, and Laurie Wood and Kody Partridge, naming Gov. Gary Herbert, then-Attorney General John Swallow, and Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen. It argued that the Supreme Court of the United States has declared that “marriage is one of the ‘basic rights of man,’ fundamental to our very existence and survival.” It went on to claim that Utah’s Amendment 3, which restricts marriage to the union of one man and one woman, creates an inherent discrimination which denies gays and lesbians “the basic liberties and equal protections under the law that are guaranteed by the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution.”

The suit is being funded by Restore Our Humanity, a local nonprofit, which has been doing extensive fundraising and public relations work for it, and was filed just before the United States Supreme Court debates regarding Proposition 8, California’s same-sex marriage ban, and the Defense of Marriage Act. The Supreme Court, in June of this year, struck down both measures as unconstitutional.

More as we get further details.

The full ruling is here.

Michael Aaron

Michael Aaron is the editor and publisher of QSaltLake. He has been active in Utah's gay and lesbian community since the early 80s and published two publications then and in the 90s.

Related Articles


  1. Robert J. Shelby was appointed to his bench by Obama. He's a Wisconsinite who now lives in SLC with his "life partner" and their two adopted sons. Obama, along with this man's twisted morals, and greed to be married himself so that he can try to normalize his status, is what brought this on Utah.

Check Also
Back to top button