An appellate court on Wednesday struck down Utah’s same-sex marriage ban, further extending the legal winning streak for advocates of marriage equality.
In a 2-1 decision, a divided panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit concluded Utah’s ban violated the constitutional guarantees of equal protection.
“We hold that the Fourteenth Amendment protects the fundamental right to marry, establish a family, raise children, and enjoy the full protection of a state’s marital laws,” Judge Carlos F. Lucero wrote in the 65-page majority opinion.
Dismissing conservative arguments that same-sex marriage threatens the marriage institution, Lucero added that “it is wholly illogical to believe that state recognition of the love and commitment between same-sex couples will alter the most intimate and personal decisions of opposite-sex couples.”
But in an acknowledgment that conservatives will want to appeal to the Supreme Court, judges also stayed their decision so that same-sex marriages cannot yet commence in Utah.
The legal challenge to Utah’s same-sex marriage ban was brought by Salt Lake City residents including Derek Kitchen and Moudi Sbeity, who Lucero stated “have been in a loving, committed relationship for several years.”
Until now, though, they have not been able to marry in Utah, because of an amendment to the state’s constitution adopted by 66 percent of voters in 2004. The constitutional provision declares that “marriage consists only of the legal union between a man and a woman” and that “no other domestic union, however denominated, may be recognized as a marriage or given the same or substantially equivalent legal effect.”
The court, though, brushed aside the margin of approval.
“The protection and exercise of fundamental rights are not matters for opinion polls or the ballot box,” Lucero wrote.