A federal judge struck down a same-sex marriage ban Friday in Utah, bringing the growing acceptance of gay marriage to one of the country’s most conservative states.
U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby issued a 53-page ruling saying Utah’s law passed by voters in 2004 violates gay and lesbian couples’ rights to due process and equal protection under the 14th Amendment, and denying credence to the belief that gay marriage affects heterosexual marriage.
“In the absence of such evidence, the State’s unsupported fears and speculations are insufficient to justify the State’s refusal to dignify the family relationships of its gay and lesbian citizens,” Shelby wrote.
This decision comes the same week the New Mexico Supreme Court legalized gay marriage, stating that a ban on same-sex marriage licenses is unconstitutional, thus signifying how the national shift toward gay marriage has grown.
Earlier this month, attorneys for the state argued that Utah’s law promotes the state’s interest in “responsible procreation” and the “optimal mode of child-rearing.” Attorneys also claimed that it’s not up to the court to determine how a state defines marriage, saying that the Supreme Court’s ruling on DOMA earlier this year does not give same-sex couples a universal right to marry.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, a long-standing opponent of same-sex marriage, calls Utah its home and is a major influence of the state’s conservative marriage views.
The lawsuit was brought by three gay couples, one of whom is married legally in Iowa and wants their new home state to recognize their license.
Peggy Tomsic, the attorney who represents the three couples, calls this a victory for Utah’s gay rights.
“We cannot capture in words the gratitude and joy plaintiffs feel,” Tomsic said in a statement.