A federal judge struck down Utah’s ban on same-sex marriages on Friday, arguing that it breaks federal law in a manner similar to Virginia’s prohibition on interracial marriages, which was struck down in 1967.
“Applying the law as it is required to do, the court holds that Utah’s prohibition on same-sex marriage conflicts with the United States Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection and due process under the law,” District Court Judge Robert J. Shelby wrote in his decision. “The State’s current laws deny its gay and lesbian citizens their fundamental right to marry and, in so doing, demean the dignity of these same-sex couples for no rational reason. Accordingly, the court finds that these laws are unconstitutional.”
The Salt Lake City Tribune reported that Shelby delivered his verdict nearly three weeks before another hearing on the case was to be held on Jan. 7.
Shelby wrote that the despite being passed with 66 percent of the popular vote in 2004, the state’s Amendment 3 violated the rights of the six plaintiffs in the case under the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment, likening the debate of individual freedoms against a state law in this case to the Supreme Court’s decision in Loving v. Virginia in 1967.
“Anti-miscegenation laws in Virginia and elsewhere were designed to, and did, deprive a targeted minority of the full measure of human dignity and liberty by denying them the freedom to marry the partner of their choice,” he wrote.
He also criticized the argument from supporters of the law that Amendment 3 did not deprive the plaintiffs of their rights because it allowed for them to marry a person of the opposite sex.
“This purported liberty is an illusion,” Shelby wrote. “The right to marry is not simply the right to become a married person by signing a contract with someone of the opposite sex. If marriages were planned and arranged by the State, for example, these marriages would violate a person’s right to marry because such arrangements would infringe an individual’s rights to privacy, dignity, and intimate association. A person’s choices about marriage implicate the heart of the right to liberty that is protected by the Fourteenth Amendment.”
One of the plaintiffs, Moudi Sbeity, told the Tribune the news of the decision felt “unreal.”
“I’m just very thrilled that Derek and I will be able to get married soon, if all goes well and the state doesn’t appeal,” Sbeity, who sued for the right to wed his partner, Derek L. Kitchen. “We want a farmer’s market wedding because it’s where we spend a lot of time.”
Shelby’s decision, released on Friday, can be seen below.
[Image: “Two Gay Men Standing On A Beach After Wedding Ceremony” via Shutterstock]