Utah Same-Sex Marriage Legalization Celebration1
Derek Kitchen kisses his fiancee Moudi Sbeity at the rally celebrating the legalization of same sex marriage in Utah. To the right is Kate Call and Attorney Peggy A. Tomsic. Kitchen, Sbeity and Call are co-plaintiffs in the case that led to the Supreme Court decision. (Photo by Stephanie Konchar / The Signpost)

More than 400 people celebrated the end of the legal battle over same-sex marriage in Utah on Monday evening.

Monday morning the Supreme Court declined the case of Kitchen v.  Herbert and similar cases from four other states. The decision makes the earlier U.S. 10th Court  of Appeals ruling final and ended the stay on same-sex marriage in Utah.

At Library Square in Salt Lake City, LGBT community members and their allies danced, cheered and expressed their love for one another after the decisions. Members from Weber State University’s Gay-Straight Alliance attended the event.

“It’s important to celebrate all of the hard work that went into making marriage equality a reality,” said Ali Johnson, the president of WSU’s Gay-Straight Alliance.

Colleen Mewing, WSU alumna and chapter leader for Marriage Equality USA, said she and her wife, Jolene, almost broke down into tears when they heard the news.

“We are finally married in our home state and no one can take that away from us,” Mewing said. Mewing married her wife during the 17-day period in which same-sex marriage was legal in Utah, prior to the stay being put in place.

Gov. Gary Herbert said he was disappointed with the decision and felt the people deserved a hearing to bring finality to the issue. He said he still believed individual states had the right to define marriage, but he would uphold the law.

Herbert sent a memo to state agencies instructing them to recognize all legally performed same-sex marriages.

Map of the state of gay marriage in the U.S. With Utah and four other states legalizing gay marriage, the number of states permitting the practice rose to 30 (Source: The Los Angeles Times / MCT)
Map of the state of gay marriage in the U.S. With Utah and four other states legalizing gay marriage, the number of states permitting the practice rose to 30 (Source: The Los Angeles Times / MCT)

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes sent a letter to the county clerks in the state instructing them to issue marriage licenses for same-sex couples.

WSU sophomore Kestin Page said that decision meant a lot to him. He said not only did it mean that could be married in the future but his mother can now marry her partner  of eight years.

“This is the first time we are being treated as full citizens,” Page said.

The rally featured speakers such as Derek Kitchen, one of the plaintiffs in the case, Peggy Tomsic, the lawyer who represented them, state Sen. Jim Dabakis and leaders from equality groups around the state.

The speakers talked about all the hard the work people did to bring this victory about and celebrated the decision. The speakers also mentioned that there is more work to do.

In Utah people can be fired or evicted from their home based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Equality Utah will now push the Utah State Legislature to pass laws in order to make the LGBT community free from discrimination.

“I see hearts and minds opening across the nation and across the state every single day. I am confident that we will get to the day soon where we’ll have full legal equality in all areas governed by civil law,” said Troy Williams, the incoming director of Equality Utah.

With this decision, the number of states allowing same-sex marriage has risen to 30.

Since the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in 2013, three circuit courts of appeals have ruled state bans on gay marriage unconstitutional. A decision is expected soon from the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals and another case is being appealed to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

If one of these courts rules against same-sex marriage, it could mean the Supreme Court would take the case next year to resolve the circuit split.

Richard Price, political science professor at WSU, said while the court not issuing a decision isn’t a legal precedent, the Supreme Court had to know thousands of same-sex couples would get married in these states.

If the Supreme Court were to turn back in a few years, it could create legal problems in those states, Price said.

“I can’t say for certain but to me it implies the majority of justices believe the court will uphold same-sex marriage rights in the future,” Price said.

Note: This story was updated to correct the spelling of Peggy Tomsic.

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