Utah Same-Sex Marriage Ban Anchored in Religion, AU Tells Federal Appeals Court

Church & State, April 2014 | Go to article overview

Utah Same-Sex Marriage Ban Anchored in Religion, AU Tells Federal Appeals Court


Americans United has joined a legal brief asking a federal appeals court to uphold a lower court ruling that struck down Utah's same-sex marriage ban.

The brief, filed March 4 by Americans United, the Anti-Defamation League and 23 other religious and public policy groups, says the state's ban is unconstitutional and argues that it restricts, rather than protects, religious liberty.

"A handful of religious groups should not be allowed to define marriage for all Americans," said Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United, in a statement. "That is fundamentally at odds with what religious liberty is supposed to be about. The Constitution guarantees protection for everyone, not just a privileged few."

The brief, filed before the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, argues that the government cannot adopt a definition of marriage favored by some religious groups.

"A decision overturning the Marriage Ban would assure full state recognition of civil marriages, while allowing religious groups the freedom to choose how to define marriage for themselves," the groups assert. "It is a violation of the First Amendment to deny individuals the right to marry on the grounds that such marriages would offend the tenets of a particular religious group."

The brief ads, "While many religious institutions may have a history of defining marriage as between a man and a woman, those traditions are separate from, and cannot be allowed to dictate, civil law."

Utah's same-sex marriage ban is the result of a 2004 ballot referendum. In 2013, six plaintiffs sued the state over the ban, arguing that it violates their constitutional rights.

A federal court subsequently ruled for the plaintiffs, and hundreds of same-sex couples were married in the state after the court refused to issue a stay of its ruling. …

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