Shortly after a federal judge on
Friday struck down Utah's gay marriage ban as unconstitutional,
reports have surfaced that a county clerk's office has started
issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples.
In his 53-page ruling, U.S. District
Judge Robert J. Shelby said Amendment 3, the state's 2004
voter-approved constitutional amendment which limits marriage to
heterosexual unions, violates the 14th Amendment.
Shelby said that “fears and
speculations” about how allowing gay couples to marry would affect
opposite-sex marriages “are insufficient to justify the State's
refusal to dignify the family relationships of its gay and lesbian
to the AP, Salt Lake County Deputy Clerk Dahnelle Burton-Lee has
started issuing licenses.
The state has not said whether it will
appeal the ruling.
Attorneys for the state argued during a
nearly 4-hour hearing held earlier this month that Utah is acting
rationally to foster a culture of “responsible procreation.”
They also argued that the law creates the “optimal mode of
The decision is the first in a number
of legal challenges filed in response to a Supreme Court ruling in
June striking down a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act
(DOMA), which prohibited federal agencies from recognizing the legal
marriages of gay couples.
Plaintiffs in the case are three gay
couples, one of which wants an Iowa marriage recognized in Utah.
“We cannot capture in words the
gratitude and joy plaintiffs feel,” Peggy Tomsic, attorney for the
plaintiffs, said in a statement.
The ruling comes a day after the New
Mexico Supreme Court legalized marriage for gay couples.
Mexico: 17th state to legalize gay marriage.)
Nearly a decade before voters approved
Amendment 3, Utah lawmakers approved the nation's first law
prohibiting a state from recognizing the legal marriages of gay
couples. Utah is also home to The Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints, the Mormons, which played a prominent role in
passage of Proposition 8, California's now-defunct marriage ban.