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What the Supreme Court Rulings on Gay Marriage Mean for Utah

Andrea Smardon
Utah Pride Center Executive Director Valerie Larabee

As the nation digests the US Supreme Court’s decisions on the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8, Utahns are thinking about how the ruling will affect the lives of lesbian and gay people in this state.

Leaders of the Utah Pride Center started their press conference by passing around a box of tissues. Executive Director Valerie Larabee took to the podium with puffy red eyes, calling the Supreme Court decision a pivotal moment.

“Today we celebrate, we rejoice, and we express immense gratitude to the Justices of the Supreme Court who with wisdom and courage stood on the right side of history, and for a free and just country,” Larabee reads from a prepared statement.

The Pride Center filed a friend-of-the-court brief in both the DOMA and Prop 8 cases in behalf of more than a dozen of the nation’s most conservative states, highlighting what they called discrimination experienced by LGBT people. But while the Pride Center celebrates victory, Attorney General John Swallow says nothing has changed for Utahns, and same sex marriage remains illegal in this state.

“These decisions really don’t change the status quo for Utah,” Swallow says. “States can still define the marriage relationship the way they want to unless they’ve already legalized same sex marriage. So for a state like Utah, we should have no real impact from these cases; it just preserves the status quo, because we as a state have not allowed or authorized same sex marriage.”

Attorney Brett Tolman helped draft the Utah Pride Center’s brief, and he says the Attorney General is underestimating the impact of these rulings.

“When the Attorney General says the Supreme Court is not forcing Utah to authorize marriage equality, he’s accurate, but he should not be comfortable,” says Tolman.

Tolman says the high court has begun to establish equality for LGBT people, and he says the rulings will put intense pressure on those states where same sex marriage is not legal. Utah currently faces a lawsuit over its Constitutional Amendment 3 – which makes same sex marriage and adoption illegal. The Attorney General’s office is expected to respond to that challenge in August.

Andrea Smardon is new at KUER, but she has worked in public broadcasting for more than a decade. Most recently, she worked as a reporter and news announcer for WGBH radio. While in Boston, she produced stories for Morning Edition, Marketplace Money, and The World. Her print work was published in The Boston Globe and Prior to that, she worked at Seattleââ
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