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Reaction to U.S. Supreme Court’s non-decision on gay marriage

October 11th, 2014 Posted in Opinion

By Katherine Lambert

LOGAN — Despite U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby’s ruling in December that legalized same-sex marriage in Utah, the state has been stuck on one sentence from its Constitution: “Marriage consists only of the legal union between a man and a woman.”

That changed Monday when the Supreme Court of the United States declined to rule on Utah’s appeal of the 10th Circuit Court’s decision upholding Shelby’s ruling, thereby establishing the legality of same-sex marriage in the state.

“I would have preferred the Supreme Court ruled for equality in all 50 states,” wrote Reed Abplanalp-Cowan in an email interview. Abplanalp-Cowan is co-director of the award-winning documentary 8: A Mormon Proposition. “I still hope they will intervene and make marriage equality the law of the land everywhere in our country so that those who wish to get married and their children can have the same benefits, rights and privileges as heterosexual married couples enjoy. That said, in a way–by not ruling–it strengthens the lower courts’ rulings. By not getting involved it sent a strong message: ‘The issue is clear-cut. The lower courts have spoken and ruled fairly and correctly according to the Constitution of the United States…what more needs to be said.’”

Reid Furniss, an advisor in USU’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences who was married to his husband Cary Youmans Dec. 23,  admits to having “waffled” between whether or not he agreed with the Supreme Court’s decision the last few days. However, he says he now feels like the Supreme Court’s decision was a smart one.

“I think it was a good thing they ruled the way they did or did not rule, whichever way you want to describe,” Furniss said. “The reason being is the state is always taking this, ‘we have the right to make the decisions on what marriage is.’ In my opinion, if the Supreme Court were to come in and say, ‘this is how it is going to be,’ they would have been trampling on states’ rights. So there’s that side of the decision to look at. I think the court was smart at this point not to step in and do anything that would go against state’s rights.”

Yet the debate over the power states have to determine whether or not to ban same-sex marriage continues.  Tuesday, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said same-sex marriage was legal in Idaho. On Wednesday, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy placed a hold on that ruling.

According to an article in the Boise Weekly, Idaho governor C.L. ‘Butch’ Otter said in a debate Idaho was “pro-traditional marriage,” and he would  “defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of Idaho.”

Youmans and Furniss, who were the first couple in Cache County to be married by a religious leader, disagree with Otter that same-sex marriage is anti-traditional marriage.

“There are groups that are anti-marriage equality, that describe themselves as pro-traditional marriage,” Youmans said. “And a lot of the verbiage they use suggests or implies that those of us that are pro-marriage equality are somehow anti-traditional marriage. I just want to go on record: I am not against traditional marriage. It is about marriage equality, not preference of this type of couple being married as opposed to this type of couple. We just simply want an equal status, an equal opportunity.”

With same-sex marriage now legal in Utah, same-sex couples are now privy to many of the same benefits as heterosexual couples, benefits which were once denied to them.

“One yummy thing about USU being progressive, for lack of a better word, is that they have at least recognized that we are at least domestic partners if you will,” Furniss said. “So we have had double insurance coverage like the straights or the heterosexuals have had. To a point, we have the same perks or benefits. However, because the state of Utah did not recognize it as if it were the straight, married, heterosexual couples, we have been taxed on those benefits.”

However, adoption for same-sex couples is still limited. A hold placed on adoptions for four same-sex couples who were married during the 17-day window in December is still in effect until the Utah Supreme Court rules otherwise.

“Families and love are families and love,” Furniss said. “That’s the way we are wired. Religion and politics should not mix no matter what the religion is, and that’s where the problems are coming in from, those that don’t follow the same religious background. That’s what serves up this inequality thing, in my opinion.”

Youmans said he doesn’t think there will be great social opposition in Cache Valley to legalizing same-sex marriage.

“What I’ve observed in my few years in Cache Valley, is I’m seeing sort of a quiet acquiescence, I think,” Youmans said. “Since Cache Valley is so prominently LDS, I think that there’s going to be an underlying, ‘well, no that’s not what we choose but that’s the law.’”

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