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Religious Tolerance logo

Same-sex marriage (SSM) in Utah:

Part 17: 2014-JUN/AUG:
Options open to the State of Utah after ruling
by 3-judge panel of the 10th Circuit Court of
. Reactions to the ruling.

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This topic is continued from the previous essay.

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The acronym "SSM" refers to same-sex marriage;
"LGBT refers to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender community.

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LGBT symbol 2014-JUN-25: Options open to the state:

Following the decision by a three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in favor of marriage equality, the state is faced with three options:

  • It could accept the Court's ruling and allowing same-sex couples to marry freely in Utah just like opposite-sex couples had been doing in the U.S. for centuries. That would be intolerable to the Governor, Attorney General and most of the population of Utah who disapprove of marriages by same-sex couples -- largely because of their conservative religious reasons.

  • It could appeal the 3-judge panel's decision to the full Court of Appeals. This would delay the final decision, because whichever side lost the case before the full Court would be certain to appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. If this path were chosen, it would be unlikely that the full Court of Appeals could issue its ruling by 2014-SEP-23. This is the cutoff date by the Supreme Court for a ruling in late 2015-JUN; the high court's earliest ruling would then be mid-2016.

  • It could appeal the three-judge panel's decision directly to the U.S. Supreme Court. This would seem to be the best option because it could resolve the controversy in the shortest possible time. If the Supreme Court decided to grant certiorari -- agree to accept the appeal -- then hearings would probably be held in 2015-MAR, and a ruling issued in 2015-JUN. However, the high court does not have to agree to accept the case. There are about 75 active same-sex marriage cases headed towards the Supreme Court, and the Justices may want to delay matters until more appeals reach them. That would probably delay a final ruling until mid-2016.

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Reactions to the Court of Appeals' ruling:

A few hours after the court ruling was announced, state officials said that they plan to appeal the case directly to the U.S. Supreme Court! That would be a risky undertaking for the government of Utah. The state is predominately Mormon -- followers of a very conservative Christian denomination with very strong beliefs on matters related to human sexuality. They strongly oppose marriage equality and have firm views about roles that women are allowed to take .

There have been a dozen federal and state court rulings on the legality of same-sex marriage to date. Every one has upheld the right of same-sex couples to marry. If the state of Utah were to appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, that court could uphold the right of such couples to marry. Utah, and its Mormons, would then be forever known as the state and faith group that played a major part in legalizing same-sex marriage. That is probably a reputation that the state and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would prefer to not have. On the other hand, if the case were appealed to the full Court of Appeals, and is upheld by the full court, and if the state does not appeal it to the U.S. Supreme Court, then marriage of same-sex couples would become available in Utah and perhaps in other states over which this Court of Appeals has jurisdiction: Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, and Oklahoma. That would not be perceived as a positive outcome for most Mormons.

Governor Gary R. Herbert (R) said at a news conference:

"I’m disappointed because I believe states do have a right, through the democratic process, to define marriage."

That belief is almost universally held by conservatives, independents, and liberals alike. What is being actively debated is whether the voters or legislators in a state have the right to define marriage in a way that conflicts with the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses in the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. More details.

He does see a positive result of the ruling which is probably shared by many Americans. It pushes the conflict one step closer to a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court. which could:

"... bring some finality to this, which is what all people, on all sides of the issue should want -- which is what I want."

Brian Brown is president of the National Organization for Marriage, a non-profit group whose sole goal is the prohibition of marriage by same-sex couples everywhere in the U.S. He said:

"While we strongly disagree with the two judges in the majority, we are encouraged by the strong defense of marriage articulated by Justice Paul Kelly in his dissent, and especially his defense of the sovereign right of the people of Utah to decide this issue for themselves." 1

Amy Fowler married her wife during the short interval that marriages were available to same-sex couples in Utah. She said that she was close to shedding tears of joy after learning of the appeals court ruling. She said:

"It's amazing,. I'm reading the opinion right now and I think we certainly hoped for it and maybe expected it a little bit — but this is incredible. ... We have to wait a little longer to see what happens next but this is a step in the right direction. We're one step closer to actually being really married. It’s exciting." 2

Derek Kitchen, the lead plaintiff in the case said he was:

"... overjoyed. Since the lawsuit was filed last year, we have received so much support from so many people in our state, and we are now looking forward to the day when we will finally be married." 2

In reality, Kitchen can be married right away. All he and his partner need to do is to take a short airplane ride to California and be married there. What they cannot achieve at this time is to have their out-of-state marriage recognized when they returned to Utah.

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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. Michael Muskal, "Federal court rules against Utah ban on same-sex marriage," Los Angeles Times, 2014-JUN-25, at:
  2. Pete Williams & Tracy Connor, "Federal Appeals Court Strikes Down Utah's Same-Sex Marriage Ban," NBC News, 2014-JUN-25, at:
  3. Adam Liptak, "Justices say Utah doesn't have to recognize gay marriages," New York Times, 2013-JUL-18 at:\
  4. Marissa Lang, "Utah files same-sex marriage appeal with U.S. Supreme Court," The Salt Lake Tribune, 2014-AUG-05, 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-JUN
Latest update: 2014-AUG-11
Author: B.A. Robinson

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