Journey to equality

Utah follows California’s steps on the path to same-sex-marriage legality

There’s a certain irony in watching Utah deal with a similar legal-marriage system that some members of that state helped enforce in California back in 2008. That is, until one remembers that peoples’ lives are upended by the attempts to block marriage equality.

In 2008, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ leadership rallied its troops to support California’s Proposition 8, the so-called Defense of Marriage Act. (The LDS was later fined $36,928 by the California Fair Political Practices Commission for 13 violations of state campaign regulations.) And now, slightly more than five years later, Utah’s discriminatory marriage laws have been overturned, which resulted in about 1,000 legal marriages between partners of the same sex.

Of course, that decision is being appealed, so additional same-sex marriages are on hold. Those 1,000 couples will now watch as Utah goes through a trying period during which same-sex couples will be deprived of that civil right, just as 18,000 legally married same-sex couples did in California following the passage of Prop. 8.

The tide has turned for marriage equality. The LDS realizes this, having issued a statement to the effect that its religious beliefs about marriage remain unchanged.

But not a single one of those 1,000 marriages took place in LDS temples or other places of worship. Just as was true here in California, before Prop. 8, civil-marriage equality does not infringe on religious freedom. Churches—including the LDS—remain free to refuse to marry any couple that does not meet their doctrinal requirements.

Those 1,000 Utah couples were married in public courthouses and in churches that support marriage equality. And, thankfully, Americans are—rather quickly—coming to see that marriage equality is no threat to religious freedom. In fact, marriage equality actually will strengthen the First Amendment rights to freedom of religion, as those religious organizations who support marriage equality finally will be free to practice it.