Republicans in Utah Suprise the Senate by Publicly Supporting Same-Sex Marriage
All four of Utah’s congress members made headlines by voting in favor of the Respect for Marriage Act on Tuesday, July 19. This is the same state that ranked last among all states in support of same-sex marriage as per a poll conducted in 2010 by Columbia University.
It was so surprising that Troy Williams, the executive director of Equality Utah, tweeted his gratefulness. “I just landed in Minneapolis to the stunning news that our entire Utah delegation voted to protect same-sex and interracial marriage. I’m in tears. Thank you,” he said.
Equality Utah is the state’s primary LGBTQ+ civil rights and advocacy organization. Their work has been instrumental in combating prejudice in one of the United States’ most religious and socially conservative states. Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, stated that the majority opinion of the United States Supreme Court was not to undo any decisions concerning the right to marriage in the Constitution. He added that he understood how important it was for Utahns to codify same-sex marriage.
Same-sex marriage in Utah has been legal since October 6, 2014. This was the aftermath of Kitchen v. Herbert, which found the state’s ban on gay marriage unconstitutional in December 2013. It was ordered that the state should cease enforcing the ban immediately.
This didn’t deter conservative groups within the state from protesting against the ruling, given its highly religious traditions. Back in 1977, Utah State Legislature banned same-sex marriage in the state. However, support for LGBT rights in Utah has been increasing since it was legalized.
This happened because three same-sex couples had filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah seeking to declare its prohibition on the recognition of gay marriages as unconstitutional.
Utah is among the 29 states with trigger bans in place should the Supreme Court overturn Obergefell v. Hodges. Existing laws in these states would make same-sex marriage illegal in a heartbeat.
Considering how the Supreme Court effectively overturned Roe v. Wade and sent abortion policy back for each state to decide, it could do the same with gay marriage by overturning the 2015 ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges.
Justice Clarence Thomas has made it clear that he and other court members should reconsider Obergefell, and the fact that it has been in place for a shorter time makes it an easier target for a reversal.
It seems like Utah’s Republicans do not particularly agree with that train of thought. To the surprise of practically everyone following U.S. politics closely, Utah’s Republican congressmen voted to protect same-sex marriage.