Federal Judge Hears Arguments On Utah's Same-Sex Marriage Ban

Dec 4, 2013

Credit blogs.sos.wa.gov

A federal judge heard arguments from both sides of a lawsuit surrounding Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage. Three couples who were denied Utah marriage licenses filed the lawsuit in March, saying the ban violated their constitutional rights.

U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby heard arguments Wednesday from both sides, who had each asked for a summary judgment—meaning that a ruling could be made without material facts.

John Majia the legal director for the ACLU, which is in support of the couples, explains the arguments in the case.

"The state is saying that there is no fundamental right for same-sex couples to be married, and that it is not a violation of equal protection to classify same-sex couples differently than opposite sex couples," Majia said. "The plaintiffs obviously take the exact opposite position. That's the position that the ACLU of Utah supports, which is that marriage, even between same-sex couples is a fundamental right."

The initial lawsuit was filed just as the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on the U.S. v. Windsor case, finding the federal government’s interpretation of marriage as a heterosexual union to be unconstitutional.

Attorneys for Utah say the case made clear that individual states have the authority to define marriage.

Majia said he thinks the ruling clearly favors the same-sex couples.

"My view of Windsor is that it would support the plaintiffs, and strongly support an argument that discrimination against same-sex couples should be subjected to higher scrutiny because same-sex couples are targets for descrimination," Majia said.

The state says previous cases have shown that same-sex couples are not a protected class of citizens.

If the Judge rules in favor of the couples, Utah would be required to offer marriage to same-sex couples. Majia said whatever the judge decides, there is bound to be a long legal battle ahead. It may be months before Judge Shelby issues a decision on the hearing.