In his 53-page ruling, judge Robert J. Shelby of Federal District Court for the District of Utah declared that Utah’s marriage law, which passed with support of 66% of voters in 2004, violates the rights of gay and lesbian couples to due process and equal protection under the law.
Shelby noted that Utah failed to provide compelling evidence that allowing same-sex marriages would in any way adversely affect opposite-sex couples. He also wrote that the right to marry is a fundamental right protected by the United States Constitution.
State lawyers defending the law argued that it promoted the state interests of “responsible procreation” and the “optimal mode of child-rearing.” This is a common argument of traditional marriage promoters, who believe that having two parents of the opposite sex is the best way to raise children. However, same-sex marriage proponents often counter that the state allows single parent households.
This ruling followed a unanimous ruling by the New Mexico State Supreme Court that effectively legalized same-sex marriage in that state.
This news is significant because of how conservative Utah is: it gave former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney 73% of the vote in 2012. Moreover, public opinion in Utah has always been strongly opposed to same-sex marriage: only 28% supported same-sex marriage in February 2012 according to a poll conducted by the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy.
This ruling caps the best year in history for LGBT advocates. In this year alone, 19 senators declared their support for same-sex marriage, bringing the total number of Senate supporters to 55. Public support also increased: a Washington Post-ABC News poll from March showed that 58% of the public supported same-sex marriage while only 36% opposed.
A big victory came in June, when the Supreme Court ruled that the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which denied federal benefits to same-sex couples, was unconstitutional. In an impressive year, same-sex marriage became legal in California, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Illinois, and now Utah.