Sunday, December 22, 2013

Utah Will Never Be the Same

On Friday, the state government and the Mormon Church hierarchy lost control. 

Utah will never be the same as it was Friday morning. i.e., before (federal) Judge Robert Shelby's ruling that Utah's Amendment 3 (banning same-sex marriage) is unconstitutional. 

Totally apart from what this ruling means to gay Utahns and their families, I think this decision, in ways which cannot be fully known at this point, is probably the most momentous one involving control of the state of Utah since the last years of polygamy when federal judges came in to assert federal authority over a recalcitrant Mormon-controlled state government. 

In a sweeping ruling that I must imagine took by surprise the powers that be in this state, the complacent, smug world in which those powers operate - secure in the knowledge that they are in control - was suddenly upended. 

News reports this morning quote Governor Gary Herbert as saying that the situation (with the county clerks who issue marriage licenses) is "chaotic." In other words, he has lost control of the situation. And a perhaps titanic struggle is shaping up between the Utah state government and (via the federal judiciary) the federal government, the likes of which this state has not seen since the days of polygamy. 

The state requested an emergency stay* over the weekend of Judge Shelby's ruling. Judge Shelby declined, saying he would hear arguments tomorrow as to whether a stay is appropriate. The state also went over his head to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals,** asking it to issue a stay if Judge Shelby does not submit to the state's demands for an immediate stay. (Which, it seems to me, is hardly likely considering the same judge issued an order two days ago that "enjoins the State from enforcing Sections 30-1-2 and 30-1-4.1 of the Utah Code and Article I, § 29 of the Utah Constitution to the extent these laws prohibit a person from marrying another person of the same sex.") 

The hierarchy - both political and religious - has lost control. 

For the hundreds of thousands of Utahns who are not part of the dominant religious environment in this state (or who may be, but whose progressive views are frowned upon within their community), these events are tremendously affirming. A federal judge has provided affirmation not only to LGBT Utahns, but to ALL Utahns who feel disenfranchised and disconnected from their state government because they are a minority. 

Utah will never be the same again.

(*A stay temporarily suspends the effect of a ruling.)

(**All federal courts in the country are organized within districts. Utah is part of the 10th district, the headquarters of which are in Denver.)

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