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Utah Has Right to Regulate Marriage says Attorney General

The Utah Attorney General’s office responded to a complaint this week challenging Amendment Three in the state’s constitution that defines marriage as union between a man and a woman.  

Three couples filed the Utah complaint in federal court just before the U-S Supreme Court  heard oral arguments on the federal Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8. Utah Attorney General John Swallow and his office responded with an answer to the complaint this week.  Swallow says that the Supreme Court’s ruling on DOMA reinforces state’s rights to define marriage.

“Utah maintains the rights that the regulation and definition of marriage belongs to the states and the federal government and so we believe that’s the right position for states and traditionally has been that states regulate marriage,” said Swallow.

Amendment Three in the Utah Constitution defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Sixty-six percent of Utah voters approved it in 2004.  The thirteen page answer filed by the Attorney General’s Office says that same-sex marriage is not a constitutionally protected fundamental liberty or right.  But thirteen states and the District of Columbia recognize and allow gay marriage.  Valarie Larrabee is the executive director of the Utah Pride Center.  She’s concerned that gay couples who are married legally in other states are being discriminated against in Utah.

“Every day we have more and more reciprocity issues between those states that allow same-sex marriage and those that don’t. So, you have full faith items that don’t transfer and leave these couples vulnerable,” said Larabee.

It’s now up to U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby to decide what is next in this case.  Several other states including Nevada and Pennsylvania are involved in similar lawsuits.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misidentified U.S District Judge Robert Shelby.  

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