Same-sex Marriage (Possibly Briefly) Legal in Utah

- - posted in equalitylife

Just a brief note. I’ve only just today fully caught up with what’s going on in Utah. As some of y'all may know, the Great State of Utah, which has consistently been in the bottom 10% as far as GLBT rights and marriage equality particularly, now has lines of people out the door of their courthouses trying to get married to their same-sex partners they love. In the photos I’ve been seeing of the people waiting to get married, I don’t get the sense that they are horrific sinners who are trying to bring down civilization as we know it; they kinda just look like people who are in love and want to be able to share their lives together. As more people begin to see what that actually looks like, it becomes harder and harder to be opposed to it. Ultimately these are people just like any other people in that they are seeking their own kind of happiness. That’s what America is supposed to be about, or so I was told.

Now, I’m anticipating a full-on, no-holds-barred, five-alarm freak-out from the Right about this, obviously, because judicial activism and everything. It’s hard to argue with the judicial precedent the judge cited though: Antonin Scalia’s (admittedly probably tongue-in-cheek, like most things Scalia) sarcastic complaints in his Supreme Court opinion that he opposed the ruling because it might—gasp!—also strike down state laws forbidding gay marriage even somewhere that really doesn’t want gay marriage like Utah. How unthinkable….

So now we’re back in this kind of limbo like in the earlier days of this fight, when some clerk or some judge or some mayor or someone would point out that there is no Constitutionally-sound justification for continuing to prevent same-sex couples, each having the same motivations straight couples would have, from joining together in civil marriage. Ever since Proposition 8 passed in California (funded mostly from outside groups including a shitload of money from Utah and the various Mormons there), when something like this happens I wait for that other shoe to drop, for the inevitable constitutional amendment or new more cantankerous law to be passed that makes new marriages in that state unlawful but can’t possibly deal with the hundreds or thousands of marriages already begun in the interim. I can feel that happening again here, because, again, Utah consistently polls in the lower 10% of places that might not mind allowing gay people to get hitched. But, surely, if this isn’t it, there will come a certain point where that limbo is simply not possible, where a marriage inequality law gets repealed, or struck down, or otherwise like this abruptly wiped out of relevance, where it simply will not be possible to turn the clock back again afterwards. You know the familiar story by now: first a state passes a law forbidding gay marriage or already had one on the books, a judge at some point rules this law unconstitutional or otherwise invalid, some group of local bigots passes a referendum or a new constitutional amendment or something forbidding gay marriage again, and then the newly-married few are in this bizarre situation where they’re married but can’t legally be divorced and new gay couples can’t be married like them. That’s been one of the most bewildering and common outcomes in this fight for equality, and it has been very upsetting every time. But surely, at some point, that step where a referendum is passed or the state constitution is amended, becomes impossible, either because the public is no longer tolerant of efforts to remove previously-granted rights from their friends, neighbours, and loved ones; or because it is literally forbidden from happening by the United States Constitution and prevailing jurisprudence. I’m not sure which of those situations will happen, but I feel like that tipping point is already nearly at hand here. We’ve already seen the first repeals happen by public opinion (Washington, I want to say? Or perhaps Oregon?) and we’ve already seen some of those laws and constitutional amendments get repealed.

What will be interesting is what the state of Utah does now. I am certainly not a lawyer, so I don’t really know what their current options are, but I feel like at this point every time one of these situations throws down, I’m basically waiting to see who it is who gets out there in front of cameras to be on the wrong side of history again. And it does happen. Again and again. Sometimes it makes me wanna ask someone who was alive when George Wallace tried to personally block black students from attending the University of Alabama. It really makes me wonder sometimes if hearing him say “…segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!” as it did for me to hear Rick Santorum say he’d “die on that hill” in opposition to gay marriage. (I’m used to over-the-top rhetoric from right wing culture warriors like Santorum, but did he seriously say he would personally give his life in an epic fight against gay marriage… like he’d die to stop people from getting married? Yeah….) Did that feel the same to people who’ve heard both? Will Rick Santorum later feel as embarrassed and ashamed for those remarks as he should? I hope he lives long enough to gain the wisdom necessary to repent for that, but I don’t know if he will. Just like my generation got to see the death of the last unabashedly racist congressman when Jesse Helms finally got around to dying, my generation or the next will witness the death of the last unabashed and publicly homophobic congressman. Maybe it’ll be Rick Santorum, but who cares as long as they’re the last one, right space cadets?

Enjoy those rights, Utahans, while you’re certain you have them.

Since it seems to be a topic I’ve been writing about a lot lately, I’ve decided to open up a new equality category for these stories. I’ll be added relevant entries to it in the coming days. ——Ed.