By a 5-4 margin, the United States Supreme Court has taken the final step in bringing forth marriage equality. Every state in the United States must now recognize same sex marriages. We can just refer to same sex marriage as “marriage” now.
Last Friday, the Department of Justice released a video (embedded below) that states explicitly the federal government will treat Utah’s same-sex marriages as “lawful and considered eligible for all federal benefits.” Currently, same-sex marriage licenses are not being issued in Utah, but couples that are already married are eligible for immigration benefits. Among those benefits are a higher priority for the receipt of green cards (i.e. permanent resident cards) and a shorter wait time to become a U.S. citizen.
For couples who can no longer become married in Utah but would like to be, it is possible to be married in other states. New Mexico and California are the closest states that currently perform same-sex marriages. Although Utah will not recognize those marriages either, the federal government will. The federal government recognizes marriages that were legal at the time the were performed, regardless of where the couples move or travel afterward.
At least for the time being, Utah now has same-sex marriage. Federal Judge Robert Shelby ruled that Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. He wrote, “Applying the law as it is required to do, the court holds that Utah’s prohibition on same sex marriage conflicts with the United States Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection and due process under the law. The State’s current laws deny its gay and lesbian citizens their fundamental right to marry and, in so doing, demean the dignity of these same-sex couples for no rational reason. Accordingly, the court finds that these laws are unconstitutional.”
Judge Shelby did not put a stay on his order, which means it is effective immediately. You can bet that the state of Utah will appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, but same-sex marriages are being performed today. That complicates any appeal and will make it interesting to see how this case develops. The logic of Judge Shelby’s opinion could apply equally to every state. The Tenth Circuit is generally considered a conservative appeals court; Judge Shelby was appointed to the federal court by President Obama.
On a personal note, I am pleased that there is a little more love in this world. Congratulations to all the newlyweds and best wishes moving forward.