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Utah Gay Weddings Begin Right After Judge Overturns Same-Sex Marriage Ban

Utah Attorney General
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Elisa Noel rushed to the county clerk's office with her partner immediately after learning that a federal judge overturned Utah's ban on gay marriage. They waited in line for a wedding license and were married in an impromptu ceremony punctuated with Noel giving the officiant a high-five.

"I can't believe this is Utah," Noel said moments after a ceremony that took place about 3 miles from the headquarters of the Mormon church.

Others had a similar reaction after a ruling by U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby that declared Utah's voter-approved ban on gay marriage unconstitutional. The recent appointee by President Barack Obama said the ban violates the constitutional rights of gay couples and ruled Utah failed to show that allowing same-sex marriages would affect opposite-sex marriages in any way.

The ruling prompted a frenzy of activity by lawyers and gay couples. The Republican governor blasted the ruling as going against the will of the people. Gay couples rushed to the Salt Lake County Clerk's office en masse to secure marriage licenses, waiting in line by the dozens and getting married on the spot by the mayor and ministers.

It was a jubilant affair as cheers broke out after ceremonies were completed. A gay bar in Salt Lake quickly made plans for a Friday night party to mark the event. Some made plans to march on the capitol Monday.

"I am very disappointed an activist federal judge is attempting to override the will of the people of Utah. I am working with my legal counsel and the acting attorney general to determine the best course to defend traditional marriage within the borders of Utah," Gov. Gary Herbert said.

Late Friday, the state filed both a notice of appeal of the ruling and a request for an emergency stay that would stop marriage licenses from being issued to same-sex couples. It's unknown when the judge will make a decision on whether to grant the stay.

The ruling has thrust the judge into the national spotlight less than two years after Congress approved his nomination to the federal bench. Shelby was appointed by President Barack Obama after GOP Sen. Orrin Hatch recommended him in November 2011.

Shelby served in the Utah Army National Guard from 1988 to 1996 and was a combat engineer in Operation Desert Storm. He graduated from the University of Virginia law school in 1998 and clerked for the U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Greene in Utah, then spent about 12 years in private practice before he became a judge.

The church said in a statement Friday that it stands by its support for "traditional marriage."Many similar challenges to same-sex marriage bans are pending in other states, but the Utah case has been closely watched because of the state's history of steadfast opposition to gay marriage as the home of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"We continue to believe that voters in Utah did the right thing by providing clear direction in the state constitution that marriage should be between a man and a woman, and we are hopeful that this view will be validated by a higher court," the church said.

Not all Mormons were disappointed. A group called Mormons for Equality applauded the ruling, saying it was particularly sweet coming in "the heartland of our faith."

The group has been among the leaders of growing movement among Mormons to push the church to teach that homosexuality isn't a sin.

The Mormon church's stance has softened considerably since it was one of the leading forces behind California's short-lived same-sex-marriage ban, Proposition 8, in 2008. A church website launched this year encourages more compassion toward gays, and church leaders backed the Boy Scouts' recent policy allowing gay youth.

The Utah ruling comes the same week New Mexico's highest court legalized gay marriage after declaring it unconstitutional to deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples. A new law passed in Hawaii last month now allows gay couples to marry there.

If the ruling stands, Utah would become the 18th state to allow gay marriages, said Jon Davidson, director of Lambda Legal, which pursues litigation on LGBT issues nationwide. That's up from six before the U.S. Supreme Court last summer struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act that defined marriage as between a man and a woman. The District of Columbia also allows same-sex marriage.

Deputy Salt Lake County Clerk Dahnelle Burton-Lee said the district attorney authorized her office to begin issuing the licenses but she couldn't immediately say how many had been issued. But it was clear from the line at the clerk's office that was several dozen.

"The momentum we are seeing is unprecedented in any human rights struggle," Davidson said. "To have this fast a change in the law and in public opinion, is quite remarkable."

State Sen. Jim Dabakis, chairman of the Utah Democratic Party, was one of the first to get married in Salt Lake City with his longtime partner, Stephen Justesen.

"Do you, Jim, take Steven, to be your lawfully wedded spouse?" the mayor asked.

But at the Utah County clerk's office in Provo, same sex-couples were still denied marriage licenses.

Patsy Carter, 42, and her partner of eight years, 39-year-old Raylynn Marvel, said they went to the office immediately after hearing about the ruling but the clerk said they office was still reviewing the ruling and consulting with the county attorney.

Carter said the ruling was still a positive step and she believes Utah County, considered one of Utah's most conservative, will eventually have to start granting the licenses.

"If my marriage licenses could say, 'Provo, Utah,' that's probably the most epic contradiction ever," she said.

Utah's lawsuit was brought by three gay and lesbian couples, including one that was legally married in Iowa and just wants that license recognized in Utah.

During a nearly four-hour hearing on the case earlier this month, attorneys for the state argued that Utah's law promotes the state's interest in "responsible procreation" and the "optimal mode of child-rearing." They also asserted it's not the courts' role to determine how a state defines marriage, and that the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling doesn't give same-sex couples the universal right to marry.

In the ruling, Shelby wrote that the right to marry is a fundamental right protected by the U.S. Constitution.

"These rights would be meaningless if the Constitution did not also prevent the government from interfering with the intensely personal choices an individual makes when that person decides to make a solemn commitment to another human being," Shelby wrote.

___

Follow Brady McCombs at https://twitter.com/BradyMcCombs . Associated Press writers Paul Foy and Michelle Price contributed to this report.

Join the discussion

1000|Char. 1000  Char.
LAWMANTOO December 22 2013 at 4:09 PM

Non-news. The only people interested are the media and the parties. Of course the religion zealots want to push their agenda too by posting vilifying comments.

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2 replies
Brian LAWMANTOO December 22 2013 at 4:26 PM

If you're not interested in it, then why did you bother commenting? Hell, why not just become a hermit and do the world a favour and leave us all alone?

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CABEZON LAWMANTOO December 22 2013 at 5:02 PM

ITS NOT PUSHING THE AGENDA ITS CALLED TELLING THE TRUTH . AND THE TRUTH WILL SET US ALL FREE. I AM PRETTY SURE THE HOMSEXUALS ARE VERY LOVING PEOPLE BUT LOVE ONLY WONT GET YOU RIGHT WITH GOD. WE ALL ARE GOING TO FACE JUDGEMENT FROM GOD .IF ALL THIS HOMOSEXUALL STUFF IS BIENG STUFF DOWN OUR THROAT IN COMERCIALS, SHOWS ON CABLE ,HOUSE HUNTERS WITH TWO MALES BUYING A HOUSE ,WE AS CHRISTIANS HAVE THE RIGHT TO TELL THE TRUTH. THE WORLD AND MEDIA IS TRYING TO SAY ITS ALL RIGHT. BUT ITS NOT.

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1 reply
oceanmist217 CABEZON December 22 2013 at 5:47 PM

Take your meds. and lie down, all that screaming isn't healthy for you.

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jpaf December 22 2013 at 9:16 PM

Well, though neither of us are (or ever have been) LDS, because of same-sex marriage, I am now related to The Prophet! Once Ontario made the change I became the g-g-g-nephew-in-law of Emma Hale, Smith's first wife. Since she accepted multiple marriage (well, forced to do so), I am sure she would be happy to see us now legally together in the Beehive State.

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Nidos December 22 2013 at 4:34 PM

I like the way the Pope put it - "Who am I to judge?"

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3 replies
giig21 December 22 2013 at 8:26 PM

Again i wonder why the "Church" has any bearing on the decisions. Licenses issued by the State cannot discriminate against ANY citizen. LIke a drivers's or building permit they are just for the issue not the moral stance. If that where the case, a building permit could be denied based on the builng being a Synagogue in a Christian neighborhood. Every day hundreds of marriages are performed at the courst regardless of the couples "Belivefs". What"s the big deal !!!!!!!!!!!

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2 replies
klee1701 giig21 December 22 2013 at 8:33 PM

Some christians do not understand such logic and reason when it comes to their chosen hatreds and bigotry.

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2 replies
dusty754 klee1701 December 22 2013 at 8:37 PM

Somehow logic and religion in the same sentence makes an oxymoron.

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Sergio klee1701 December 22 2013 at 10:51 PM

I think it's secularists who don't understand logic and reason. The point Christians are trying to make is that sexual immorality starts a trend of more sexual immorality causing innumerable consequences. Whether it's polygamy, adultery, homosexuality, rape, unwanted pregnancies/over-population, etc. Your previous stat is actually proof. You said that over 50% of Christian marriages end in divorce. I won't question your source since it is apparent that the divorce rates have increased. Not too long ago the divorce rate among Christians was under 15%. It's obvious that the secularist way of life has invaded the core beliefs and actions of Christians since everyone is vulnerable to the same temptations. This is the reason Christians are trying to fight back. This doesn't make them hypocrites. The secularist way of life has been forced on everyone and clearly affects the way a person raises their children despite their efforts to raise them as moral beings. This is an undeniable fact since the stats don't favor secularism. Wars, murders, drugs, pregnancies, education, etc., have all suffered greatly because of this. We use "freedom, liberty and The Constitution" as a weapon against religion and morals. We say that religion suppresses us from joy and happiness, yet we are the reason for our own misery and destruction (case in point: rise in bitter people, therapy and suicides). Next time you lock your door at night, think about why you're locking it. Are you afraid of a Christian or a secularist? Mind you that the secularist is the one that promotes the life that leads to drugs, adultery, thievery, murder and greed. In other words, a gang member, drug addict, thief, etc. Just as I was willing to accept your stat about rising Christian divorces, accept the fact that secularism/lack of morals is what has us in the bind we're in today. If you don't want to believe me, turn on the tv and let me know what the tv shows and commercials are selling. If you don't see the same trend of sex, drugs, partying, alcohol, corruption, sexual immorality (including homosexuality) between tv and real life, then everything I said is wrong and you should continue with your sarcastic responses to religion. Note: Sarcastic humor has greatly risen in Hollywood (Conan Obrien, Jimmy Kimmel, Bill Maher, etc) as well as in our daily life. Coincidence? You be the judge. Take care and be well.

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molly2peaches giig21 December 22 2013 at 8:46 PM

That is a terrific point that ought to be brought up if and when this is appealed.

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1 reply
mo524 molly2peaches December 29 2013 at 7:11 PM

Congress shall pass no law in recognition of religion that is in the first amendment so please exlain how his religious arguement will help in an apeal?

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MICHAEL FREI December 22 2013 at 3:34 PM

why is a judge an activist judge when they rule for the law... but not an activist when they act on their own religious beliefs when making a ruling?

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1 reply
klee1701 MICHAEL FREI December 22 2013 at 3:41 PM

It is called hypocrisy, with their reasoning their way is the only way.

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arenadood December 22 2013 at 5:09 PM

I wish people would just lead there own lives in the way they chose to love their mate no matter what the gender be. None of my business who marries who as long as they are consenting adults I wish them well.

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jeffrson13 December 22 2013 at 5:20 PM

Any time I hear some religious zealot talk about "traditional bible marriage," it just reminds me how uneducated American Christians are about their own religion. If you take all the marriages of the Old and New Testaments and add them all together, the most prevalent form of marriage is polygamy. So, according to the Bible, Polygamy is 'traditional marriage.' So, I guess the Mormons got it right! Or, how about the part in the Bible that says that if a woman is widowed without a son, she must marry her husbands oldest brother. That's not even a suggestion. That's a straight law. Or, the part that says that if an unwed woman is forced to have sex (HuffPost bans you if you use the "r" word) then she must then marry her attacker? Why do Christians pick and choose which parts they follow like a Chinese buffet? I guess ignorance truly is bliss. Religious bliss.

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2 replies
davidaglass jeffrson13 December 22 2013 at 5:45 PM

I think it's more about society being able to decide what our cultural institutions are, e.g., what is marriage? Should the 'people' be able to say, marriage is between one man and one woman? I see no reason not to. If, however, 'marriage' is not a cultural institution, but rather a constitutional right, then same-sex marriage should be allowed. In fact, I cannot give you an argument as to why any two consenting adults cannot get married (e.g., two brothers, a mother and a son, etc.), other than it might not fit my personal definition of marriage. Along those same lines, why can't four people who love eachother have the same marriage rights as I? Well, you can see where this is going ... if marriage is everything, marriage is nothing...

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2 replies
kenbushway davidaglass December 22 2013 at 6:44 PM

Marriage is nothing, it has no value and ends relationships. Its a flawed man made creation, from flawed man. Its been used as trade and uniting kingdoms.

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s4ephen davidaglass December 22 2013 at 10:23 PM

The bans on incest and polygamy apply to everyone. That's not inequality. The ban against gays marrying only applies to gays. That's inequality. Either ban straight marriage or allow gay marriage. Those are your only choices.

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bannorhill jeffrson13 December 22 2013 at 6:19 PM

The most prevalent form of marriage has never been polygamy. Polygamy was only practiced by a small portion of the population.

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lakearcher December 22 2013 at 5:21 PM

Come on folks . . . live and let live.

Flag Reply +9 rate up
sacsurveyor December 22 2013 at 5:23 PM

"I can't believe this is Utah"

That's funny.

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jacob.smalley December 22 2013 at 9:13 PM

"The Mormon church's stance has softened considerably since it was one of the leading forces behind California's short-lived same-sex-marriage ban, Proposition 8, in 2008. A church website launched this year encourages more compassion toward gays, and church leaders backed the Boy Scouts' recent policy allowing gay youth." FLAT-OUT LIE. AS USUAL.

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1 reply
semperfitexan jacob.smalley December 22 2013 at 9:24 PM

Flat out lie indeed . Do you expect anything else from an Obama appointee ?

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2 replies
Purple Shell semperfitexan December 22 2013 at 10:15 PM

This has nothing what so ever to do with Obama or the appointee. It has to do with the constitution. I take it most of you posters have never read the constitution or do not believe in it.

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CalSailor semperfitexan December 23 2013 at 1:18 AM

The "flat out lie" that jacob.smalley is referring to is the official LDS website. IT HAS NOTHING--NOTHING--to do with the judge, or the court case.

Try reading next time.

Pr chris

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