Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) and Attorney General John Swallow (R) have responded to a suit challenging the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage by denying that it even discriminates against the gay community. In fact, in response to claims made in the complaint that “gay and lesbian individuals have faced a long and painful history of societal and government-sponsored discrimination in this country,” Swallow claims that he and his fellow state officials are “without sufficient knowledge to admit or deny the allegations.”
Swallow’s response does acknowledge that “marriage between a man and a woman is a constitutionally protected fundamental right,” but denies that the same is true for same-sex couples, because gays and lesbians can still get married just like heterosexuals:
State Defendants affirmatively state that same-sex marriage has never been recognized in Utah. State Defendants admit that Utah law and its constitution define marriage as the legal union between a man and a woman and do not recognize same-sex marriages, among other types of marriages, performed in Utah or other jurisdictions. State Defendants admit that unmarried couples or groups of any kind—heterosexual, homosexual, polygamous, etc.—are not granted certain rights afforded married couples. Utah law, however, does not “impair any contract or other rights, benefits, or duties that are enforceable” independently of being married. […]
Utah law prevents neither homosexuals nor lesbians from marrying. Homosexuals and lesbians may marry in Utah, but they face the same restriction heterosexuals do – they may not marry a person of the same sex. This restriction is not gender based – it applies equally to both males and females.
This response reveals a lack of awareness about the very nature of gay and lesbian lives, and the argument is not very compelling. Men are allowed to marry women but not men and vice versa for women; that is discrimination based on sex as much as it is sexual orientation. Hopefully, the three same-sex couples who brought this suit can educate their fellow Utahns about their families and the importance of securing legal protections for the lives their building together.