With state laws banning gay marriage falling at a brisk pace across the country, Gov. Gary Herbert on Thursday took some states that have declined to continue fighting in court to defend these laws to the mat, saying picking and choosing laws to defend is a step toward “anarchy.”---
The governor's comments came three days after U.S. District Judge Dale A. Kimball ruled against the state of Utah, saying state leaders must grant the more than 1,000 married same-sex couples the same rights other married Utahns enjoy.
If the state declines to appeal Kimball's ruling, same-sex couples could be granted the same rights and protections as their heterosexual counterparts in 17 days.
Herbert told reporters at his monthly news conference at KUED studios that the decision of whether or not to appeal Kimball's ruling has not been made. However, the governor made clear his intentions to defend state laws, even if federal judges say they're unconstitutional.
“We have an obligation as a state, as a governor, as an attorney general to defend those laws. ...” Herbert said.
As state bans on gay marriage have been overturned by federal judges, some states, like Oregon and Pennsylvania, have declined to appeal. Herbert called these decisions “disappointing.”
“For elected officials, governors and attorney generals to pick and choose the laws to be enforced is a tragedy and is the next step to anarchy,” he said.
Last December, U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby struck down Utah's Amendment 3, which forbid gay couples from marrying, saying it violated equal protection rights afforded by the U.S. Constitution.
Because the state failed to request a stay of the ruling that would have prevented gays from marrying until the case percolated to higher courts, nearly 1,300 marriages occurred.
But when an emergency stay was granted by the U.S. Supreme Court in January, the marriages came to a halt and Herbert ordered all state agencies to retroactively strip these married couples any of the rights a marriage certificate would normally have guaranteed them.
Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes has gone so far as to direct district court judges to cease processing any adoptions for these same-sex couples until the case is resolved.
The state's appeal of Shelby's ruling was heard by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, in Denver, last month. A ruling is expected any day.
Herbert opined about whether sexual orientation is something people choose, or if it's as natural as a person's race. This comparison has surfaced, as gay marriage supporters have said the refusal by states to grant same-sex couples the same rights as their other married couples is akin to defending laws that banned interracial marriage.
“What you choose to do with your sexual orientation is different in my mind that what you're born with as far as your race,” Herbert said.