Utah has a "sovereign right" to define and regulate marriage and a constitutional amendment that bars recognition of same-sex marriage enshrines that right, state attorneys say in a brief filed in U.S. District Court.
The state’s 13-page answer filed in federal court Monday says marriage between a man and a woman is a "constitutionally protected fundamental right and/or liberty interest." While it is true that "unmarried couples or groups of any kind — heterosexual, homosexual, polygamous, etc." are denied certain rights available to married couples, their access to those rights is not protected under the U.S. Constitution, the state says.
Regulating marriage is a legitimate governmental interest, the filing states, noting that the state’s law does not prevent gays or lesbians from marrying — it simply does not afford their unions any recognition. In addition, the restriction is not gender-based since it applies equally to both males and females, state attorneys argue.
Utah voters approved Amendment 3 in 2004 and it took effect on Jan. 1, 2005. It was approved by 66 percent of the voters who participated in the election.