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Utah same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional

Utah same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional

UPDATE 2: The Rev Lee Shaw reflects on officiating at a wedding for 2 friends tonight. See also photo.

UPDATE: Press release from the Rt Rev. Scott Hayashi, Bishop of the Diocese of Utah


As the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Utah, I rejoice that U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby has struck down Utah’s Amendment 3. All people should have the right to due process and equal protection enshrined in the 14th Amendment. Gay and lesbian people are human beings with hopes, dreams, and the need for love. I celebrate that now they will have access to the same fulfillment enjoyed by heterosexual people. They are people made in the image of God.

Many people will find this ruling difficult. The change that this represents will cause them heartache, frustration, and a feeling that our country is going in the wrong direction. Understanding, compassion and prayer for people who deplore this decision is important. They are people made in the image of God. I will be offering my prayers for them.

We are one people. We are one state. We can and must work to make Utah into the place where all people are treated with respect and dignity, and where God is seen in the face of each and every person. As the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Utah, I will continue to welcome all people into The Episcopal Church.


Directly applying the Supreme Court’s decision striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act to a state’s ban on same-sex marriage, a federal judge in Salt Lake City ruled Friday that Utah’s voter-approved state constitutional amendment violates the federal Constitution.

“The Constitution protects the choice of one’s partner for all citizens, regardless of their sexual identity,” U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby ruled in a fifty-three-page opinion. He was the second federal judge to nullify a ban imposed by a state’s voters at the ballot box; the first such ruling nullified California’s “Proposition 8? — a ruling that the Supreme Court left intact in June but without a direct ruling on it.

1535572_10202938065762698_1598734205_n.jpg If Judge Shelby’s ruling withstands an appeal, it would make Utah the eighteenth state where same-sex marriages are allowed, and the seventh in which equal marriage rights were established by a court ruling.

Reuters reports

The judge’s 53-page written decision barred the state from enforcing its ban and adds to growing momentum toward legalizing gay marriage across the nation.

It also touched off an immediate rush to the altar by gay couples, especially in Salt Lake City, where a festive atmosphere broke out in the county government building that played host to a string of impromptu weddings – including that of a state senator to his longtime partner.

In a sign of their hurry to wed, many were dressed informally, with one woman arriving in hospital scrubs. Salt Lake County deputy clerk Dahnelle Burton-Lee said county officials had not kept count of licenses handed out.

Photo of 3 Episcopalians after ruling, Nathan Spofford, James Belmont and the Rev. Lee Shaw. Shaw writes:

What an incredible day: I officiated for the marriage of two dear friends, both male. Who would have thought this would happen in Utah now. (could be lengthy) I had a call from Nathan Spofford and Jim Belmont asking if I would officiate for their marriage now that it is legal in Utah. I said, “Of course.” (Their canonical requirements were met a few years earlier by their rector when he blessed their union in their parish.) I grabbed my “rainbow” stole and Prayer Book and went to the Salt Lake County Clerk’s office. I have never seen such a joyful group of people. Hundreds of them many standing in line, others getting married, family and friends all around. Lots of cameras and video cams. It was noisy and joyous and chaotic and wonderful.

We found a relatively quiet place and I married my two dear friends. I could not see it, but I am told that behind us a group had gathered and after I finished the blessing, there was applause from total strangers. You could hear applause all over the second floor of the County Building as couples were married. Marriages were happening everywhere!! It was incredible and wonderful and I loved it. I have never been in such a chaotic and joyous place for a wedding.

As far as I know Jim and Nathan are the first Episcopalians in Utah to be married and I am the first priest to officiate. Later I saw a colleague priest waiting with another gay couple to get married. This has been such a blessing to me to be invited to take part in this loving and, yes, historic event for Utah. Such a blessing for everyone this evening who were married. Afterwards we went to a cozy Italian restaurant to celebrate. What a wonderful day! Blessings on Jim and Nathan!


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Yesterday, I asked Bishop Hayashi (on the diocesan site) whether his support of the decision meant that (otherwise qualified) same-sex couples could now marry in Utah Episcopal churches. I have not received a response (indeed, my question hasn’t been posted).

I would like to think the marriage celebrated above by the Rev. Lee Shaw answers my question. But could we have a link to that (happy!) story?

JC Fisher

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