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The strange tale of marriage equality in Utah


Just before Christmas, marriage equality arrived in the most unlikely of states.

In 2004, Utah voters approved Amendment 3 to the state constitution defining marriage as between one man and one woman by a 66-34% margin.  On December 20, U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby struck down that provision an unconstitutional violation of the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.  This decision marks the first time a federal judge has ruled on marriage equality on Constitutional grounds as a “fundamental right” and that there was no “rational basis” in refusing to grant it to gay couples, a departure from the Supreme Court’s decision in Windsor in 2013 that maintains that regulation of marriage is in the purview of the states and not the federal government.

Immediately thereafter, hundreds of gay couples lined up in courthouses around the state to get marriage licenses as the state filed an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit.  What followed was a series of appeals to three levels to attempt to stop county clerks from issuing licenses to gay couples:

Finally, on January 6, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court granted Utah’s request for a stay, ending the issuance of marriage licenses to gay couples.  However, some 1,000 couples who had already taken vows remain legally married.  Those who did not must now wait for the 10th Circuit to rule sometime in the next few weeks.

This blog is an advertisement for the Law Office of Philip R. Yabut, PLLC, and the information in this post is not to be construed as legal advice, nor does reading it form an attorney-client relationship. Please do not post confidential information in the comments section.

Philip R. Yabut, Esq. || 1100 N. Glebe Road, Suite 1010, Arlington, VA 22201 || (571) 393-1236 || pyabut@prylaw.com

16 (plus DC) down, 34 to go


"equal justice...period" by author

“equal justice…period” by author

Today, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed marriage equality into law, making his state the 16th to legalize same-sex marriage.  Religious groups have pledged to challenge the law in court, but barring any judicial setbacks, gay couple will be able to obtain marriage licenses starting on June 1, 2014.

Last week, Hawaii became the 15th state to adopt marriage equality when Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed it into law.  And in October, gay marriage became legal in New Jersey when Gov. Chris Christie dropped an appeal challenging a court ruling it constitutional in light of June’s Supreme Court’s decision invalidating the Defense of Marriage Act.

This blog is an advertisement for the Law Office of Philip R. Yabut, PLLC, and the information in this post is not to be construed as legal advice, nor does reading it form an attorney-client relationship. Please do not post confidential information in the comments section.

Philip R. Yabut, Esq. || 1100 N. Glebe Road, Suite 1010, Arlington, VA 22201 || (571) 393-1236 || pyabut@prylaw.com

Quick Analysis of Today’s DOMA and Proposition 8 Rulings


Pro-marriage equality advocates gather at the U.S. Supreme Court. Photo by author.

Pro-marriage equality advocates gather at the U.S. Supreme Court. Photo by author.

This morning, the Supreme Court struck down provisions of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) as unconstitutional.  In a 5-4 opinion, Associate Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for the majority, states that “DOMA is unconstitutional as a deprivation of the liberty of the person protected by the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution.”  In the other marriage equality case, also a 5-4 decision (Chief Justice John G. Roberts writing for the majority), the Court ruled that the petitioners in the California Proposition 8 case did not have standing to appeal, which means that the trial court’s decision invalidating Proposition 8 stands and California can resume recognition of same-sex marriages.

Q: Who does the DOMA decision affect directly?

A: Everyone in the country who is in a legal same-sex marriage

The main purpose of DOMA was to prevent the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages that several states have deemed legal.  This delegitimatization prevented same-sex spouses from enjoying over 1,000 benefits under federal law that opposite-sex couples get automatically upon legal marriage.  With DOMA’s demise, legally married same-sex couples will soon have rights to Social Security survivorship, tax status, inheritance, and many other benefits listed in the U.S. Tax Code and other federal laws.

Q: Does the DOMA ruling mean that states where same-sex marriages are illegal must recognize gay unions?

A: No. 

The Supreme Court did not give state same-sex marriage statutes “full faith and credit,” which means that the 38 states that do not already recognize same-sex unions don’t have to start doing so.  The effect of the ruling is that the Court leaves the question of marriage to the individual states.  This is in contrast to the 1967 Loving v. Virginia case, where the Court ruled that laws banning interracial marriages were unconstitutional nationwide.

Q: Who does the Proposition 8 decision affect directly?

A: Only residents of California.

The Court did not rule on the merits of the case, meaning that it did not discuss whether same-sex marriages should or should not be recognized on the state level.  In plain English, the Court dismissed the case on a technicality.

Q: What is “standing?”

A: Standing means the ability to bring a suit before a court. 

Proposition 8 (page 49 in this 2008 voter’s guide)was a referendum passed in 2008 that forced California to stop performing gay marriages.  The law was challenged and repealed at the trial level, but on appeal state officials declined to defend the statute.  An interest group called ProtectMarriage.com, which led the initiative to get Proposition 8 on the ballot, filed the appeal in place of the State of California.  The Court ruled that this group did not suffer “personal and tangible harm” and thus could not bring an appeal, and therefore returned the case to the trial court, whose ruling striking down Proposition 8 would immediately become effective.

Cases referenced:

U.S. v. Windsor, 12-307 (June 26, 2013)

Perry v. Hollingsworth, 12-144 (June 26, 2013)

Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967)

This blog is an advertisement for the Law Office of Philip R. Yabut, PLLC, and the information in this post is not to be construed as legal advice, nor does reading it form an attorney-client relationship. Please do not post confidential information in the comments section.

Philip R. Yabut, Esq. || 1100 N. Glebe Road, Suite 1010, Arlington, VA 22201 || (571) 393-1236 || pyabut01@gmail.com

Marriage Equality Arrives in Rhode Island


"capitol couple" by author

“capitol couple” by author

Today, Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee (I) signed two bills legalizing same-sex marriage on the steps of  the state capitol in Providence.  With that stroke of a pen, Rhode Island becomes the tenth state (plus DC) to accept marriage equality under the law.  Same-sex couples will be able to marry beginning on August 1, while those who already are joined under the old civil union statute will be able to change their status to married.

This blog is an advertisement for the Law Office of Philip R. Yabut, PLLC, and the information in this post is not to be construed as legal advice, nor does reading it form an attorney-client relationship. Please do not post confidential information in the comments section.

Philip R. Yabut, Esq. || 1100 N. Glebe Road, Suite 1010, Arlington, VA 22201 || (571) 393-1236 || pyabut01@gmail.com

Defense of Marriage Act at the Supreme Court — audio and transcript


On March 27, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments on U.S. v. Windsor, a challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996, which defines marriage as only between a man and a woman in federal law.  The Court has released full audio of the proceedings as well as a transcript.  Both can be found at the Court’s website here.

This blog is an advertisement for the Law Office of Philip R. Yabut, PLLC, and the information in this post is not to be construed as legal advice, nor does reading it form an attorney-client relationship. Please do not post confidential information in the comments section.

California Proposition 8 at the Supreme Court — transcript and audio


On March 26, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral argument for Hollingsworth v. Perry, which is the challenge to California’s Proposition 8, which overturned that state’s same-sex marriage law.  Listen to the audio here through The Washington Post, and read the trascript here through Politico.com.

UPDATE: Both can now be downloaded directly from the Supreme Court’s website.

This blog is an advertisement for the Law Office of Philip R. Yabut, PLLC, and the information in this post is not to be construed as legal advice, nor does reading it form an attorney-client relationship. Please do not post confidential information in the comments section.

Marriage Equality Update: Illinois and Rhode Island


"capitol couple" by author

“capitol couple” by author

In the fight for marriage equality, two states have bills moving through their legislatures and are poised to to be the next jurisdictions to approve same-sex marriage this year, pending court challenges.

Illinois: The state Senate approved a marriage equality bill 34-21 on February 14, setting the stage for a vote in the Illinois House, which has not yet set a date for taking up the legislation.  Lobbying on both sides is well underway, with sports legends lending their support and the GOP party chairman feeling pressure for backing the bill.  Gov. Pat Quinn (D) has promised to sign the bill if it passes the legislature.

Rhode Island: A recent poll found 60% supporting same-sex marriage as a bill makes its way through the legislature.  In January, the state House overwhelmingly passed the measure 51-19, sending it to the Senate, which will take it up this spring.  The vote there is expected to be razor-thin, and fast and furious lobbying is ongoing.  Gov. Lincoln Chafee (I) is a vocal supporter of marriage equality.

This blog is an advertisement for the Law Office of Philip R. Yabut, PLLC, and the information in this post is not to be construed as legal advice, nor does reading it form an attorney-client relationship. Please do not post confidential information in the comments section.