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S.B. 24 Marriage Defined

20 January 2004 Published in Legislative Work

Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement,

and Criminal Justice Committee
Utah State Capitol
Salt Lake City, Utah 84114

January 21, 2004

RE: S.B. 24 Marriage Defined

Dear Committee Members,

The ACLU of Utah is writing to register its objection to Senate Bill 24, which deprives lesbian and gay couples in Utah of any legal protection of their lifelong relationships. S.B. 24 is constitutionally deficient and fundamentally unfair. Existing Utah Code § 30-1-2 already prohibits marriage between persons of the same sex. S.B. 24 seeks to amend this section by denying same sex couples the right to marry, thereby denying them any mechanism for ensuring that the law recognizes their emotional and financial commitments to one another. This is fundamentally unfair.

S.B. 24 also raises serious constitutional concerns. The Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees that no state will deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. U.S. Const. amend. XIV; see also Utah Const., art. I. The United States Supreme Court has long held that discrimination for its own sake is inherently improper: “[I]f the constitutional conception of equal protection of the laws means anything, it must at the very least mean that a bare [governmental] desire to harm a politically unpopular group cannot constitute a legitimate governmental interest.” United States Dept. of Agric. v. Moreno, 413 U.S. 528, 534 (1973); see also Palmore v. Sidoti, 466 U.S. 429, 433 (1984) (“The Constitution cannot control . . . prejudices but neither can it tolerate them. Private biases may be outside the reach of the law, but the law cannot, directly or indirectly, give them effect.”). In Romer v. Evans, 517 U.S. 620, 634-35 (1996), the Court made express that this fundamental principle applies equally to discrimination against lesbian and gay people. Furthermore, in its decision last summer in Lawrence v. Texas, 123 S. Ct. 2472 (2003), the U.S. Supreme Court held that lesbians and gay men, just like heterosexuals, have a fundamental right to form intimate relationships.

Respectfully,

Margaret Plane