SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A federal judge struck down Utah’s same-sex marriage ban Friday in a decision that brings a nationwide shift toward allowing gay marriage to a conservative state where the Mormon church has long been against it.
U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby issued a 53-page ruling Friday 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.
Shelby said the state failed to show that allowing same-sex marriages would affect opposite-sex marriages in any way.
“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.
The best part is that in the ruling, Judge Shelby cited the dissent by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in last summer’s Court ruling striking down DOMA.
In its 5-4 decision in June, the Supreme Court held that the federal Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional because it violated individual liberty, but did not rule that all state bans on gay marriage were unconstitutional. In his dissent in the case, United States v. Windsor, Scalia wrote that the majority opinion’s logic would inevitably lead to the state bans being declared unconstitutional as well:
In my opinion, however, the view that this Court will take of state prohibition of same-sex marriage is indicated beyond mistaking by today’s opinion. As I have said, the real rationale of today’s opinion … is that DOMA is motivated by “bare… desire to harm” couples in same-sex marriages. How easy it is, indeed how inevitable, to reach the same conclusion with regard to state laws denying same-sex couples marital status.
Shelby nodded in rhetorical agreement with Scalia’s reasoning after citing that quote in his decision.
“The court agrees with Justice Scalia’s interpretation of Windsor,” Shelby wrote, “and finds that the important federalism concerns at issue here are nevertheless insufficient to save a state-law prohibition that denies the Plaintiffs their rights to due process and equal protection under the law.”
Justice Scalia, your petard is ready.