Late Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Robert J. Shelby struck down Utah’s anti-gay marriage law, Amendment 3 on the grounds that it violated the equal protection clause and due process clause of the US Constitution.
Amendment 3 passed in Utah through a popular vote in 2004, although public sentiment has changed greatly since then. While just over 50 percent of the state was opposed to any recognition of same sex couples back then, a recent poll showed that 71 percent of Utahns now support recognition.
Marriage ceremonies began within an hour of the judges ruling, with a line that is still growing as of this writing. Included in the ranks of the happy couples are Utah State Senator Jim Dabakis (Democrat – Salt Lake City), who was married to his long time partner Stephen (you can see the video of them getting engaged after the Supreme Court’s DOMA ruling here) by Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker.
“This is a pro-family movement,” said Seth Anderson, who was the first to marry his husband tonight. “An outpouring of love, commitment, and dignity in Salt Lake City today.”
The Utah Attorney General’s office is seeking an emergency stay of the rulings, which they will likely be able to get. A stay would put all marriages performed tonight in limbo, and prevent any future marriages until an appeals court rules on the lower court’s ruling.
Governor Gary Herbert (Republican) also released a comment tonight, condemning the ruling and directing his administration to do everything possible to overturn it.
Meanwhile, happy couples were in tears tonight, shouting for joy as they watched couple after couple tie the knot and share a kiss as legal spouses.
Utah is the 18th state to legalize marriage equality, following New Mexico which happened only last night. Proponents of the ruling have long argued that the constitution guarantees equal rights for all citizens, and that the government does not have the power to deny marriages to some while condoning others.
More on this story as it develops.
UPDATE 6:30PM: The Attorney General has filed to appeal the ruling, however the judge has thusfar denied a request for an emergency stay. Marriages will continue for now.