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Supreme Court rulings on same-sex marriage could affect Utah laws

By Richard Piatt | Posted - Mar 25th, 2013 @ 10:59pm

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SALT LAKE CITY — With the renewed campaigns for legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide, several Utah laws could be affected by new Supreme Court rulings and many Utahns rallied on Monday to show support for laws banning gay marriage.

The Supreme Court will hear arguments on California's Proposition 8 on Tuesday and arguments for the Defense of Marriage Act on Wednesday. The question is whether the laws violate the constitution, and it is a question that could alter several Utah laws.

The state of Utah has upheld Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act since 2008, banning gay marriage from the state. If the Supreme Court rules to uphold Proposition 8, then states nationwide would remain free to allow or ban same-sex marriage.

However, if the Supreme Court strikes down Proposition 8 as violating constitutional rights, Utah laws could be affected in a few different ways.

BYU students rally for same-sex marriage

by Devon Dolan

PROVO — Before the Supreme Court hears arguments this week, people in Utah wanted to voice their opinions on same-sex marriage Monday night.

Dozens of people in Utah County banded together and made signs saying "gay is OK" and "marriage equality," all to send a unified message.

"I love the idea of marriage so much that I want everybody to be able to get married," said Curtis Penfold, a sophomore at BYU and supporter of same-sex marriage.

"It's important to me because I'm human, and they're human too," he said.

He's not alone, but fellow BYU student Roseanne Hopper said it's an opinion that often seems overshadowed in Utah.

"For a long time I felt on the edge of a community, or not sure if other people shared my beliefs," Hopper said.

According to a public policy poll, about 66 percent of Utahns are against same-sex marriage.

A recent Washington Post/ABC News poll found nationwide, 58 percent of Americans favor government-sanctioned marriage for gays and lesbians, and only 36 percent are opposed. Those numbers were essentially reversed just nine years ago, showing a rapid change of public opinion.

Another rally is planned in Salt Lake City Tuesday night at 7 p.m., this one called a "celebration of marriage." Attendees want the Supreme Court to uphold Proposition 8, and Gov. Gary Herbert is expected to be among them.


First, the state of Utah would have to change certain laws to allow same-sex marriage. The Supreme Court could also rule that the government can't dissolve same-sex marriages of individuals who were married before Proposition 8 went into effect.

If the Defense of Marriage Act was ruled unconstitutional, same-sex married couples would be allowed benefits such as joint tax returns and insurance coverage.

In Utah, there is intense interest because of the state's voter-improved ban on same-sex marriage. Many Utahns have voiced concerns about having their state rights taken away.

"That would probably depend on how they ruled because they are the U.S. Supreme Court," said Utah Attorney General John Swallow. "However, we feel it's unlikely they will go that broad or that far by intruding in what traditionally has been a states rights issue."

During the Monday rally, many people remembered the similar rally in November 2008 after the Proposition 8 announcement. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was a big target during the protests because of its involvement in donating money and support in passing California's initiative to ban same-sex marriage.

Attorneys for the Utah Pride Center have filed a case against Proposition 8, calling it unconstitutional, and they are hoping the Supreme Court will follow suit.

"There are a lot of emotions around here in our community about equal rights and the impact of church and state," said Utah Pride Center Executive Director Valerie Larabee.

Along with the attorneys, many individuals who support same-sex marriage continue to define it as a constitutional right, and that all laws regarding the issue should be subject to a popular vote.


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