Status: Constitutional ban on marriage for same-sex couples has been declared unconstitutional by a federal court, but that ruling is stayed pending an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In Kitchen v. Herbert, a group of same-sex couples, represented by private counsel and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, challenged Utah’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples in federal court. On December 20, 2013, U.S. District Court Judge Robert J. Shelby ruled on behalf of the plaintiffs, declaring the ban unconstitutional and directed the state to grant marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples. Judge Shelby wrote that the ban denies “[Utah’s] 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.” More than 1,300 gay and lesbian couples were married between December 20, 2013 and January 6, 2014, when the U.S. Supreme Court, upon the request of state officials, stayed the ruling pending an appeal to the Tenth Circuit.
On Wednesday, June 25, the Tenth Circuit ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in the Utah Case, striking down the state's marriage ban. In a 2-1 decision authored by Judge Carlos F. Lucero on behalf of a three-judge panel, the court agreed with the district court’s ruling that the Tenth Circuit’s ruling represents the broadest appellate court ruling in favor of a constitutional right for same-sex couples to marry. The court applied strict scrutiny in striking down Utah’s marriage ban, providing the highest level of protection to same-sex couples. In August, Utah officials formally appealed the Tenth Circuit ruling directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Separately, a group of Utah same-sex couples who received marriage licenses during the brief window it was legal, are suing the state for recognition of their marriages. The plaintiffs, represented by the ACLU and private attorneys in Evans v. Utah, argue that the state’s refusal to recognize their marriages violates the due process guarantees of the Utah and U.S. Constitutions.