On Wednesday, December 4, a Utah judge heard arguments challenging the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. Attorneys argued that discrimination must end now, citing the United States Supreme Court decision on marriage equality. Roughly one hundred people attended the hearing.
Utah’s ban on marriage equality has been in place for nearly a decade; voters passed it in 2004. U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby said he aims to reach a ruling in the early months of the coming year.
A lawyer in favor of overturning the ban, Peggy Tomsic, insists that marriage is a fundamental right, which cannot be deprived by the state. “This is the time and this is the place for this court to make it clear that the Fourteenth Amendment is alive and well, even in Utah.”
Utah is well known as the home of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), and Mormons dominate over 60 percent of the state populace.
Attorneys in favor of upholding the ban maintain that the high court rulings do not give any universal right to same-sex couples, and that Utah has a right to nurture a culture of “responsible procreation” and the “optimal mode of child-rearing.”
“There is nothing unusual about what Utah is doing here,” a lawyer for the Utah Attorney General’s Office, Stanford Purser, said. “That’s the nature of legislation: You draw lines and make designations.” Purser also claims that the law is not an issue of bigotry or hatred.
The director of Lambda Legal, Jon Davidson, stated that “Utah has a particularly symbolic position in the history of the struggle of same-sex couples to be able to marry.” He added that this particular court challenge will be one of the most important to watch considering the cultural resistance to homosexuality in the state.
The LDS is notorious for its strong disapproval of homosexuality, believing it to be a sin and against the will of God (according to the Law of Chastity). The church spent over $20 million in support of Prop 8, a California proposal that supported a constitutional ban on marriage equality. Though it initially passed in 2008, it was overturned in June of this year.