Monday, January 13, 2014

Tossing the gay marriage football around

It is playoff time for pro football teams, yet even before the post-season began, the football game between gay activists and the State of Utah was underway. Gay activists got a touchdown, then the State threw a pass that was intercepted, but they got it back and scored a touchdown on the very next play.

All right, I know it’s a ridiculous metaphor. Human rights and dignity are not a game. The LGBT community won a lawsuit in Federal Court by having Utah’s discriminatory marriage law declared unconstitutional by Judge Robert Shelby. The State countered with a request for a stay, which was denied, then denied again by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. So the State presented the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, and Justice Sotomayor, who is over the 10th Circuit Court, agreed to a stay.

That left hundreds of same-sex couples — who had gotten marriage licenses and been married legally in Utah during the giddy time following Judge Shelby’s decision — in a legal limbo. Attorney Mark Lawrence, who filed the lawsuit by enlisting two gay couples being denied their right to marry, said he had expected just what happened with the stay. He also said that it didn’t shake his belief that eventually Judge Shelby’s decision will be upheld and same-sex marriage will finally be the law in the State of Utah.

This, of course, drives the religious and conservative community here crazy. Just after the first of the year Utah governor Gary Herbert chose a new Attorney General (the former AG resigned after a scandal), and that AG, Sean Reyes, promised to spend however much money it would take to fight same-sex marriage.

Jackie Biskupsie (center) marries Joyce Lewallen and Lecie Johnson on December 23, at the Salt Lake County offices during a crush of marriage licenses issued and hallway marriage ceremonies performed after Judge Shelby’s ruling was announced. 

Photo by Francisco Kjolseth. Copyright © 2013 The Salt Lake Tribune.

That there are those of us who believe that same-sex marriage will eventually happen anyway is of no concern to those who oppose it. They will even vow to spend our taxpayer money generously to fight it!

State officials also decided that rights will not be extended to those who were married during that short period when Judge Shelby’s decision was announced until the stay was in place. A couple of days ago United States Attorney General Eric Holder announced that married same-sex couples in Utah will receive the benefits of federal law. So now the ball (there’s that football metaphor again) is in Utah’s hands. The question is, for instance, if same-sex married couples are allowed a federal tax status, what about a state tax status? The legal questions seem unending.

While all of the legal stuff goes on, the Mormon church issued this letter to be read to its members in their meetings (presumably today, Sunday, January 12, 2014), part of which states: “. . . changes in the civil law do not, indeed cannot, change the moral law that God has established. God expects us to uphold and keep his commandments regardless of divergent opinions or trends in society.”  In an article by Brooke Adams about the church letter published January 10, 2014 in the Salt Lake Tribune, the church “called for civility on both sides of the debate while the lawsuit proceeds through courts.” This from a church which recently admitted that their long-held teachings about black people were not doctrinal, but prejudice on the part of their second “prophet,” Brigham Young (who also had 27 wives), and the same church that backed and helped fund the fight for Proposition 8 in California, which was hardly civil. Lawsuits filed against that law led to the same ruling (this time by the Supreme Court in a 5-to-4 decision) that Judge Robert Shelby came to in December. In short, discrimination against a people because of their color, religion or sexual orientation cannot be written into the law. The state cannot tell someone who to love or who they can — or cannot — marry.

In the meantime, and forgive me for extending that silly football metaphor, the LGBT community has had to punt, and the ball is now in someone else’s hands.

No comments: