By Salt Lake Tribune
The U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark ruling Wednesday that the federal Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional will have little immediate effect on Utah’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. But there is little doubt that legal recognition of the right of gay men and lesbians to marry whomever they choose is in the Beehive State’s future.
As a matter of simple fairness, that’s the way it should be.
The high court’s 5-4 decision says the federal government cannot deny the statutory benefits of marriage granted by states. So, in the short term, it applies only to marriages performed in the 12 states that recognize same-sex unions.
But that limitation will almost certainly be short-lived. Constitutional amendments such as Utah’s that limit marriage to one man and one woman are now on shaky legal footing.
The majority opinion in the DOMA case clearly states the court’s support of marriage equality, but does not take the step of forcing states to immediately accept the inevitable.
Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority, “The differentiation demeans the couple, whose moral and sexual choices the Constitution protects … and whose relationship the state has sought to dignify.”
The only defense, and a poor one at that, for refusing to grant same-sex couples full marriage benefits is the one offered up by Utah’s Rep. Chris Stewart: “When we support traditional marriage, we are defending our culture and the Judeo-Christian values upon which our nation was founded.” The court rightly ruled that constitutional law is not and cannot be based on any one set of religious values.
As federal agencies, including the military, are required to provide tax, health, pension and survivor benefits to same-sex couples wed in marriage-equality states, the discrimination against other gay couples will become more obvious and eventually untenable.