The United Church of Christ played a role in the decision Friday by U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby overturning the Utah ban on same-sex marriage. Shelby argued that marriage equality would protect the religious freedom of churches that want to marry gay and lesbian partners, specifically the UCC and the Unitarian Universalist Association, while protecting other faith communities that refuse to recognize same-sex marriage. Here’s the full quote:
Although the State did not directly present an argument based on religious freedom, the court notes that its decision does not mandate any change for religious institutions, which may continue to express their own moral viewpoints and define their own traditions about marriage. If anything, the recognition of same-sex marriage expands religious freedom because some churches that have congregations in Utah desire to perform same-sex wedding ceremonies but are currently unable to do so. See Brief of Amici Curiae Bishops et al., at 8-15, United States v. Windsor, 133 S. Ct . 2675 (2013) (No. 12-307) (arguing that the inherent dignity of lesbian and gay individuals informs the theology of numerous religious beliefs, including the Unitarian Universalist Church and the United Church of Christ). By recognizing the right to marry a partner of the same sex, the State allows these groups the freedom to practice their religious beliefs without mandating that other groups must adopt similar practices.
The full text of the court’s decision is here.
Thanks to Kristina Lizardy-Hajbi of the UCC’s national staff, who brought the UCC angle to our attention shortly after the ruling was announced.
Same-sex couples have been flocking to county courthouses since the ruling was handed down Friday. More coverage on the Deseret News website.
The Utah state government is moving quickly to stay the federal court’s order pending their appeal of the decision. On Monday, Judge Shelby motion to stay his ruling pending further appeal. The state will now turn to the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals.
There are six Open and Affirming congregations in Utah. Their patient witness in adversity is one reason why the law is changing in this state, and every other state where marriage equality is still denied.