Federal judge strikes down Utah’s marriage ban, ruling effective immediately

(UPDATED BELOW, 12/21) Today, a federal judge in Utah struck down the state's ban on same-sex couples from marrying, declaring that the law violates the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of equal protection and due process. In Utah, same-sex couples are barred from marrying by a constitutional amendment, pushed through by anti-gay forces in 2004, as well as a state statute. 

The judge, U.S. District Court Judge Robert J. Shelby, 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.

Since Judge Shelby did not issue a stay on his ruling, it will take effect immediately. Same-sex couples in Utah are already applying for marriage licenses. 

Freedom to Marry's National Campaign Director Marc Solomon applauded the great news today. He said:

This is a tremendous day for loving and committed same-sex couples and their families in Utah, building on the momentum of eight other states that have ended their restrictions on marriage for same-sex couples in 2013. The federal district judge has done the right thing by affirming that marriage is a fundamental freedom for all people, gay and non-gay – for all of us who believe in liberty and fairness. We hope that officials implement this ruling statewide. As same-sex couples celebrate their weddings, more people will see that sharing in the freedom to marry helps families and harms no one.

The case that brought down this huge victory today is Kitchen v. Herbert, filed in March 2013 on behalf of three same-sex couples in Utah. Learn more about Kitchen v. Herbert HERE. And read the full ruling HERE (PDF)

Same-sex couples began applying for marriage licenses immediately in Utah. One of the first couples to successfully apply for a license - and marry just moments later - was Michael Adam Ferguson and J. Seth Anderson, who live in Salt Lake City.  "Me and my new husband!" Seth tweeted this afternoon

Also on Friday, Utah State Senator - and Utah Democratic Party Chairman - Jim Dabakis married his partner Stephen Justesen.

Many same-sex couples married on Friday in Utah, and while clerk offices across the state do not reopen until Monday, it is heartening to see such joy finally come to Utah.

UPDATED 12/21: Shortly after the ruling on Friday afternoon, Utah Governor Gary Herbert spoke out against the freedom to marry and, alongside the Utah Attorney General, said they would attempt to order a stay, which would temporarily halt marriages between same-sex couples.

A trial court has ordered a hearing regarding whether the ruling granting the freedom to marry should be stayed pending an appeal on Monday morning at 9am.

Learn more about the freedom to marry in Utah HERE.