Legal Director's Note: Final Thoughts
With less than 2-weeks left in 2013, we have another reason to celebrate. As I am sure you know, on Friday, a Federal District Court judge held Utah’s marriage ban unconstitutional. Today, that same judge denied a request from the state to stay the decision pending an appeal. This is not the final word in this case or on marriage equality in Utah, but it’s an important sign of the amazing momentum we have built over the last decade toward full marriage equality throughout the nation.
In his decision, Judge Robert Shelby, makes clear the trajectory we have been on since Lambda Legal’s historic Lawrence v. Texas Supreme Court victory, which decriminalized the private lives of lesbians and gay men in 2003:
The Supreme Court decision in Lawrence removed the only ground — moral disapproval — on which the State could have at one time relied to distinguish the rights of gay and lesbian individuals from the rights of heterosexual individuals… All citizens, regardless of their sexual identity, have a fundamental right to liberty...
With marriage equality challenges in more than 20 states, including Lambda Legal’s pending lawsuits in Virginia, West Virginia and Nevada — where our case challenging an amendment similar to Utah’s is already pending before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals — the prospect for nationwide marriage equality has never been stronger.
We’re too close to lose interest, become complacent or slow down in our fight now. It has been amazing to see the love pouring out of Utah and I was thrilled to see the energy of the decision pulsing far outside the Beehive State.
There is a path to victory and we’re on it. I am not surprised that already this year our Lawrence v. Texas victory has been cited numerous times — helping not only to bring marriage equality to places like Utah, but helping to strike down key portions of laws like DOMA — it was designed to do just that.
On behalf of Lambda Legal, I want to congratulate the plaintiff couples in the Utah case as well as all the couples who have gotten married. In 1996, I had the privilege of seeing firsthand the courage and compassion of young Utahans during our former East High Gay-Straight Alliance case in the state. This generation, with their expectation of equality, is helping to propel us forward. As Judge Shelby cited in his decision, again, from Lawrence:
...times can blind us to certain truths and later generations can see that laws once thought necessary and proper in fact serve only to oppress. As the Constitution endures, persons in every generation can invoke its principles in their own search for greater freedom.
My best wishes for a happy and healthy New Year, full of equality and justice for all.