Upholding a right that has been concrete in Utah for more than a year, the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday ruled that same-sex couples across the land can legally marry.
arrived exactly one year and a day after the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, in Denver, ruled that Utah’s ban on same sex marriage was unconstitutional.
Marriage equality has divided the nation for decades, but its rise to the high court came somewhat swiftly after U.S. District Court Judge Robert Shelby in December 2013 struck down Utah’s ban on same sex marriage.
Shelby’s ruling contended that prohibiting same-sex couples from wedding violated these couples’ constitutional right to due process and equal protection under the 14th Amendment—a contention that was the basis for the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling in favor of marriage equality.
“The nature of injustice is that we may not always see it in our own times,” wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy on behalf of the majority. “The generations that wrote and ratified the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment did not presume to know the extent of freedom in all of its dimensions, and so they entrusted to future generations a charter protecting the right of all persons to enjoy liberty as we learn its meaning. When new insight reveals discord between the Constitution’s central protections and a received legal stricture, a claim to liberty must be addressed.”
In the wake of Shelby’s ruling, Utah fought mightily, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on appeals to uphold its ban on same-sex marriage.
State leaders, including Gov. Gary Herbert, continued to register their disappointment in the courts for affording same-sex couples the same rights as others.
“I am disappointed with the decision by the court to usurp state authority and overrule the voice of the people of Utah as demonstrated by legislation with regard to marriage,” Gov. Herbert wrote in a statement. “I believe states should have the right to determine their own laws regarding marriage. Clearly, the majority of the justices disagree and their decision provides finality with respect to the law.”
Longstanding cries from critics that allowing same-sex couples to wed would somehow unravel the institution of marriage, or cheapen it, were batted down by Justice Kennedy.
“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family,” Kennedy wrote. “In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization's oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”
A rally to celebrate the decision will be held Friday at 6 p.m. at City Creek Park, 110 North State, in Salt Lake City.