SALT LAKE CITY — The state of same-sex marriage in the United States boils down to this, says Karen Archer, one of six people challenging the constitutionality of Utah's Amendment 3: "When we cross a state line, we become single again. This is inherent discrimination. I think everyone would agree."
Archer and her longtime partner, Kate Call, were legally married in Iowa on July 11, 2011. Same-sex marriage has been legal in Iowa since 2009, following a decision by the Iowa Supreme Court.
Representatives of Restore Our Humanity, which organized a year ago to challenge Amendment 3 — the Utah Constitution's ban on same-sex marriage — reflected Thursday on the Supreme Court's two decisions a day earlier.
One ruling struck down a key part of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as between a man and a woman for purposes of federal law. The court declined to rule on California's Proposition 8, which defines marriage as between one man and one woman, which effectively means same-sex marriages can resume in California.
The lawsuit is about "real people with long-term loving relationships who believe they are entitled to respect and honor in this state, just like heterosexual couples," attorney Peggy Tomsic said.
Mark Lawrence, director of Restore Our Humanity, said Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne was helping to fund the legal expenses for the lawsuit, which was filed in March. The organization is also conducting a fundraising campaign to defray legal expenses.
Byrne, a New Hampshire native and a Republican, said Utah has been a good place to do business, but the voter-approved Amendment 3 troubles him.
"This kind of position is kind of ugly to me," he said.
The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court on March 25 seeks to have Amendment 3 of the Utah Constitution declared unconstitutional under the due process and equal protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution.
The amendment, which appeared on a statewide ballot in 2004, was supported by 66 percent of Utah voters. The amendment defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman.
U.S. District Court Judge Robert Shelby, at the request of attorneys representing defendants Gov. Gary Herbert, Attorney General John Swallow and Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen, placed the case on hold awaiting the Supreme Court’s rulings on the Defense of Marriage Act and Proposition 8.
Shelby’s order gives the defendants’ attorneys 45 days from the day of the Supreme Court’s ruling to answer the plaintiffs’ complaint.
“As citizens of the state of Utah, they desire to have the state of Utah officially sanction their family, but Amendment 3 and the marriage discrimination statutes bar the state from treating them the same as heterosexual couples who are Utah citizens, married under the laws of other states, and from recognizing their fundamental liberty and right of marriage in violation the due process and equal protection clauses of United States Constitution,” the lawsuit states.
Archer and Call are joined in the lawsuit by couples Derek Kitchen and Moudi Sbeity, and Laurie Wood and Kody Partridge.
The couples, the lawsuit states, are in committed relationships and want to “express their love for and commitment to one another by getting married and obtaining official sanction for their family.”
Paul Murphy, spokesman for the Utah Attorney General's Office, which will defend the lawsuit for the state, said the Supreme Court did not address the broader issue of whether same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry so individual states can still define what is or is not a legal marriage.
"The Attorney General said the rulings basically leave Utah in the same position it was in before they were handed down and that our office will vigorously defend the challenge against the state constitution," Murphy said.
The lawsuit seeks a permanent injunction enjoining enforcement or application of Amendment 3 and any other state law that bars same-sex marriage, and to compel the state to recognize Archer and Call’s marriage in Utah.
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