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Same-sex marriage (SSM) in Utah:

Part 11: Case is appealed. Possible scenarios.
Public response. Three states recognize SSMs
in Utah. So does Utah State Tax Commission.

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This topic is continued from the previous essay.

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2014-JAN: District court ruling is appealed. Possible future scenarios:

The state of Utah appealed the ruling by Federal District Court Judge Robert Shelby to the 10th U.S. Court of Appeals.

As part of their expedited hearing of the appeal, the Court of Appeals has:

"... outlined an accelerated schedule for the appeal of Shelby's ruling. Utah's first arguments are due JAN- 27. A response from attorneys for the three gay and lesbian couples who challenged the law is due FEB-18. Any reply from the state must be filed by FEB-25." 1

Presumably, the court will hear oral arguments shortly thereafter.

A number of constitutional experts have indicated that Judge Shelby has made an airtight ruling in favor of marriage equality, and that the Court of Appeals will probably affirm his ruling.

If that were to happen, then the State of Utah would find itself in a very high risk situation:

  • If the state did not appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, then the Court of Appeals' ruling would stand and marriage equality would become the law of Utah. This is an intolerable situation the vast majority of Mormons in one of the most religiously conservative states in the U.S.. Theydesperately want to continue to withhold the benefits and protections of marriage from loving, committed same-sex couples and their children. Their stand is largely based on anti-LGBT religious beliefs which the Mormon's hold in common with fundamentalist and other evangelical Christians, and the conservative wings of many other religions.

  • If the state did appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, then there is a high probability that the court would not grant certiorari; that is, they would refuse to hear and make a ruling on the case. Many commentators note that there are many cases progressing through the federal courts. They suggest that the U.S. Supreme Court wants to benefit from many federal Appeals Court rulings before making a major decision on SSM that might affect same-sex couples across the entire country. Their action on JAN-06 in granting the stay indicates to many observers that the Court is not ready yet to legalize SSM across all 50 states.

    Nationally, SSM is currently approved by about 54% of the voters, is available in 17 states and the District of Columbia, and is available locally to almost 40% of the U.S. population. Some in the LGBT community speculate that the Supreme Court may be hesitant to declare marriage equality the law of the land until national polls consistently show support for SSM above 60%, and that SSMs are available in most of the states, to most American adults.

  • If the state did appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, and if the Court granted certiorari, the state would run a high risk of the highest court legalizing same-sex marriage in Utah and in all of the remaining 49 states. This would be an even more intolerable situation. The people in this mainly Mormon state would then have to live with the memory of having been a major player in bringing marriage equality to the entire nation and the potential for marital bliss, status, and equality to about 15 million gays and lesbians, and 15 million bisexuals in America, and their present and future children.

The ancient Chinese curse comes to mind: "May you live in interesting times."

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2014-JAN-10: Maryland will recognize same-sex marriages solemnized in Utah:

Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler announced that his state recognizes marriages by same-sex couples solemnized during late 2013-DEC and early 2014-JAN in Utah. 2

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2014-JAN-15: Delaware recognizes same-sex marriages solemnized in Utah:

Following a request by Equality Delaware on 2014-JAN-15, the Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden announced that his state will recognize the approximately 1,300 same-sex marriages solemnized in Utah in late December and early January. He said:

"Marriage equality is the law in Delaware and I strongly believe that individuals outside our state borders should be equally free to choose whom to love and whom to spend their lives with." 3

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2014-JAN-17: Office of Utah Governor Gary Herbert (R) is flodded with letters on SSM -- mostly disapproving of the state's action:

In the few weeks following the decision of the federal District Court that legalized SSM in Utah, the governor's office received about 1,800 phone calls, letters and emails in support of SSM, and about 900 contacts opposed. 4

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2013-JAN-17: Massachusetts will recognize same-sex marriages solemnized in Utah:

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley announced that her state will recognize for purposes of Massachusetts law the approximately 1,300 same-sex marriages that occured in Utah between 2013-DEC-20 and 2014-JAN-06. As noted above, the state of Utah has decided to not recognize such marriages.

MassEquality is the main group in Massachusetts supporting marriage equality in that state. Their executive director, Kara Coredini. issued a news release, saying:

"MassEquality applauds Attorney General Coakley for her continuing leadership on marriage equality. We extend our heartfelt congratulations and support to the more than 1,300 couples who have married in Utah and to the many more Utahans who are looking forward to the day when they also will marry in Utah. This chapter was already written in California, and we know how the story ends. Justice will prevail in Utah." 5

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2014-JAN-17: The Utah State Tax Commission will recognize same-sex marriages in Utah:

The Utah State Tax Commission has announced that same-sex couples who were legally married as of 2013-DEC-31 will be able to file their state income taxes as a married couple for the year 2013. This action was taken in spite of the Utah Governor announcing that the state was going to wipe out all marriage rights and protections from same-sex couples who had married in the state between 2013-DEC-20 and 2014-JAN-06 -- and their children.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) supported the three couples in the Kitchen v. Herbert case that has legalized marriages for same-sex couples in Utah.

Kate Kendell, NCLR Executive Director, issued a news release, saying:

"We welcome the Utah State Tax Commission’s announcement that it will permit legally married same-sex couples to file joint state income taxes for the year of 2013. That decision provides a modicum of protection for married same-sex couples and their families, but the State of Utah’s refusal to honor the marriages of legally married same-sex couples for other purposes is deeply disappointing.

That refusal will cause real harms to these families, while providing no benefit to anyone. As the United States District Court recognized in Kitchen v. Herbert, Utah’s ban on marriage by same-sex couples violates multiple guarantees of the federal Constitution. We look forward to the prompt resolution of the State’s appeal of that decision and are hopeful that the Tenth Circuit [Court of Appeals] will affirm the district court’s ruling so that all families in Utah can enjoy equal protection of the laws.

Kendell, of course, is not referring to "all families in Utah" but only to families in Utah led by a couple who choose to marry. There are still thousands of Utah families led by same-sex and opposite-sex couples who are not married and do not wish to marry.

It also can be argued that the refusal of the Utah Government to recognize same-sex marriages does benefit many Mormons and other religious and social conservatives who oppose the concept of marriage equality. The government refusal brings these conservatives comfort in that the state is acting in accordance with the Bible as religious and social conservative interpret its message. It also probably provides greater comfort for some conservatives who are terrified that God might retaliate against Utah with earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, tornados, or other natural disasters because of the federal District Court's extension of marriage to loving, committed same-sex couples. 6

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This topic continues in the next essay.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Dennis Romboy, "U.S. Supreme Court puts Utah same-sex marriage on hold," KSL, 2014-JAN-06, at:
  2. John Wagner, "Maryland will recognize same-sex marriages performed in Utah, state attorney general says," Washington Post, 2014-JAN-10, at:
  3. Shana O'Malley, "Delaware will recognize Utah's same-sex marriages," Newsworks, 2014-JAN-15, at:
  4. Michelle Price, "Utah Governor Flooded With Letters on Gay Marriage," Associated Press, 2014-JAN-17, at:
  5. "MassEquality Applauds AG Martha Coakley’s Announcement: Mass. Will Recognize Utah Marriages," The Rainbow Times, 2014-JAN-17, at:
  6. "NCLR Responds to Utah Tax Commission Decision to Honor the Marriages of Same-Sex Couples," The Rainbow Times, 2014-JAN-17, at:

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Home > Religious info. > Basic > Marriage > SSM > SSM sub menu > Utah > here

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Copyright © 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2014-JAN-16
Latest update: 2014-FEB-07
Author: B.A. Robinson

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