MA Gay Marriage Ruling Could Affect Utah Law

MA Gay Marriage Ruling Could Affect Utah Law

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Kimberly Houk ReportingIn a 4 to 3 decision the Massachusetts highest court ruled today a state law banning same sex marriages is unconstitutional. The ruling is expected to prompt challenges to other states' constitutions and definitions of marriage.

Every state constitution is different and Utah's courts are in no way bound by this recent Massachusetts court decision. Utah only recognizes marriages between a man and a woman. However, the state's constitution has a clause requiring all people to be treated equally, and all have basic fundamental rights.

And that's the basis for the Massachusetts ruling -- that defining marriage as only between a man and a woman is too narrow, and therefore unconstitutional. In other words, the court said the right to marry is a right to marry the person of one's choice. But legal experts say a same gender marriage recognized in Massachusetts would not be recognized in Utah.

Terry Kogan, U of U Law Professor: "Utah has adopted a statute which declares marriage is the union between a man and a woman and only a man and a woman."

But this is only a state law and not part of the state's constitution.

Terry Kogan, U of U Law Professor: "It would be possible for someone to look to the Utah constitution and look to similar provisions about equality in the Utah constitution and assert that these laws passed by the legislature are unconstitutional according to Utah's constitution."

And that's exactly what happened when seven gay couples challenged Massachusetts' law and won.

The professor says this ruling could have impact on Utah if Massachusetts' decision is used as a stepping-stone towards a federal ruling. He says if this fight ever makes its way to the United States Supreme Court, and the Court rules in favor of same sex marriages, then every state would have to recognize same gender marriages performed in other states.

Terry Kogan, U of U Law Professor: "Clauses requiring that people be treated equally, and a clause of due process requiring that the court extend fundamental rights to all people makes good sense to me when applied to same sex marriage."

Massachussetts Governor Mitt Romney today criticized the court's ruling, adding that he supports a state constitutional amendment to define marriage as between a man and a woman.

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