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Utah Claims “Sovereign Right” to Define and Regulate Marriage
In its 13-page brief filed in response to a lawsuit challenging a constitutional amendment that bars the state from recognizing same-sex marriages, on Monday, state attorneys representing Utah contended before U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby that the complaint against the amendment be dismissed as the state has a “sovereign right” to regulate and define marriage.
The controversial Amendment 3 was challenged by three couples claiming the amendment was aimed at promoting privately-held views of same-sex couples being immoral and inferior to heterosexual couples.
In its response, the state of Utah claimed that marriage between a man and a woman is a “constitutionally protected fundamental right and/or liberty interest.” The state’s brief also admitted that certain groups including “unmarried couples or groups of any kid – heterosexual, homosexual, polygamous, etc.” do not have the same rights available to married couples, because according to Utah’s state attorneys, access to such rights is not protected under the U.S. Constitution.
In reaction officials of Utah Pride Center delivered copies of the U.S. Constitution and a relevant legal brief from the center to the offices of the Utah Governor and the office of the Attorney General John Swallow on Tuesday.
Drawing attention to the assertion of the Utah Attorney General in the filing that he could neither confirm nor deny any knowledge of Utah laws that denigrate LGBT Utahns, Valerie Larabee, the executive director of Utah Pride Center said, “This response could be characterized as shockingly incompetent, especially for them not to know about Utah’s laws since they have the responsibility to execute and enforce these laws.”
However, state attorneys maintained that same-sex marriage has never been recognized in Utah and at least 30 other states have similar bans. Admitting that Utah’s public policy prohibits the recognition of same-sex marriages validly conducted elsewhere, the brief pointed out that the state’s laws do not prevent gays or lesbians from marrying – but it simply does not grant state recognition to such unions.