US District Court for the District of Utah [official website] on Friday ruled [opinion, PDF] that Utah's constitutional and statutory bans on same-sex marriage violate due process and equal protection guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment [text] to the US Constitution. Constitutional Amendment 3 [Ballotpedia backgrounder], which amended Utah's constitution to define marriage as a "legal union between a man and a woman" and eliminated recognition of any other form of marriage, was passed by a referendum vote in 2004. US Judge Robert Shelby ruled that this amendment, as well as two state statutes that prohibit same-sex couples from marrying, violate the US Constitution and rejected the state's asserted legitimate government interest in protecting traditional marriage. He stated that
Rather than protecting or supporting the families of opposite-sex couples, Amendment 3 perpetuates inequality by holding that the families and relationships of same-sex couples are not now, nor ever will be, worthy of recognition. Amendment 3 does not thereby elevate the status of opposite-sex marriage; it merely demeans the dignity of same-sex couples.The state began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples the day the ruling was issued. The state attorney general's office has stated its intention to appeal [LA Times report] the ruling.
The rights of same-sex couples has been a controversial issue in the US and internationally. The same day as the Utah ruling was issued, the Uganda parliament passed a bill limiting the rights of same-sex couples and imposing a penalty of up to life imprisonment [JURIST report] for involvement in homosexual relationships. Earlier that week, New Mexico's high court ruled that it is unconstitutional [JURIST report] to deny same-sex couples the right to marry. The same week, the US executive branch announced that it would begin processing Social Security payments [JURIST report] to surviving couples in accordance with a US Supreme Court ruling [JURIST report] issued this summer which struck down the Defense of Marriage Act [text], a federal statute that defined marriage as a legal union between a man and a woman for all federal purposes and refused to recognize any other type of marriage.