Excerpts of Joy, jeers as Supreme Court gives gay marriage a boostby Tomas Burr, Matt Canham and Isobel Markham, Salt lake Tribune
Washington • Married gay couples can file taxes together and share health benefits, while, in the nation's most populous state, same-sex partners will once again be legally able to say "I do."
In a pair of landmark 5-4 rulings Wednesday, the Supreme Court handed gay-rights supporters major victories and also signaled that it could, in the immediate future, take up the question of whether state bans — like Utah's — on same-sex unions violate the Constitution's guarantees of equal protection and due process.
Even the high court's staunch conservative, Justice Antonin Scalia, noted in his dissent that the majority's rhetoric in rejecting the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, a law banning federal recognition of same-sex marriage, could be just the first step."It doesn't change my life as much as I would have hoped," said Baker, 24. "I would love to be able to go to Salt Lake and get married in my hometown with all my friends and family being able to be there."
Justices weren't prepared to go that far. They tossed out the Proposition 8 case involving California's voter-approved ban on gay marriages on procedural grounds in a strange mix of the court's left and right flanks.
"The idea that allowing two loving, committed people to marry would have a negative impact on anyone else, or on our nation as a whole, has always struck me as absurd," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat and a Mormon. "I'm glad that today the Supreme Court recognized that the federal government has no business picking and choosing which American couples get the legal recognition and protections they deserve."Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican Mormon who voted for DOMA in 1996 and still defends it, noted the law passed overwhelmingly with support from both parties. He had predicted the court's ruling but was jarred by its phrasing, which he felt impugned the law's supporters.
"For them to indicate that the intentions behind it were less than desirable is BS," Hatch said. "People just wanted to protect the institution of marriage, Democrats and Republicans. Now that this has become a political football, the Supreme Court has issued its opinion with inappropriate language."
In the DOMA ruling, Justice Anthony Kennedy actually mirrored the Utah Pride Center's argument to the court that barring rights for same-sex couples gives them a "second-tier marriage."
"The differentiation demeans the couple, whose moral and sexual choices the Constitution protects ... and whose relationship the state has sought to dignify," Kennedy wrote. "And it humiliates tens of thousands of children now being raised by same-sex couples."
In his dissent, Scalia scolded his colleagues for their reluctance to say that the government's powers don't include defining marriage.
"Such a suggestion would be impossible," Scalia wrote in a footnote, "given the federal government's long history of making pronouncements regarding marriage — for example, conditioning Utah's entry into the Union upon its prohibition of polygamy."
Like Scalia, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, a former Supreme Court clerk and a Latter-day Saint, worries that the justices in the future may strike down state-based marriage laws such as Utah's voter-endorsed Amendment 3.
"I hope," he said, "the court will respect its own decision and the constitutional rights of Utahns and citizens of every state to legislate in their own states according to their beliefs and values."
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah and a Mormon, echoed those concerns, saying he fears the high court is "moving in the wrong direction" and emphasizing that the issue should take prominence in future presidential elections.
The Sutherland Institute, a Salt Lake City-based conservative think tank, vowed to keep fighting for Utah's ban on same-sex marriage.
"For now, nothing changes for Utah in support of faith, family and freedom," institute President Paul Mero said in a news release, "each is preserved, though each will continue to come under legal, political and cultural attack from homosexual activists."
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, an opponent of gay marriage, highlighted the fact that the court didn't redefine marriage nationwide.
"Time is not on the side of those seeking to create same-sex 'marriage,' " Perkins said in a statement that included the word marriage in quotes. "As the American people are given time to experience the actual consequences of redefining marriage, the public debate and opposition to the redefinition of natural marriage will undoubtedly intensify."