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Three Utah couples challenge state constitution’s ban on marriage equality in federal court

Three same-sex couples file a lawsuit in a Utah district court challenging the state’s 2004 constitutional amendment restricting marriage to opposite-sex couples only.  The lawsuit, which names Governor Gary Herbert, Attorney General John Swallow and Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen as defendants, contends that Utah’s marriage equality ban violates the due process and equal protection provisions of the U.S. Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment.

Utah’s marriage ban, Amendment 3, holds that “[m]arriage consists only of the legal union between a man and a woman” and that “[n]o domestic union, however denominated, may be recognized as a marriage or given the same or substantially equivalent legal effect.”  In their complaint, the couples cite the Supreme Court’s decision in the landmark 1967 interracial marriage case Loving v. Virginia that “[m]arriage is one of the ‘basic rights of man,’ fundamental to our very existence and survival.”

Two of the couples, Derek Kitchen and Moudi Sbeity and Laurie Wood and Kody Partridge, applied for marriage licenses but were rejected by Swensen on the basis of their sexual orientation.  The third couple, Karen Archer and Kate Call, were married in Iowa but are considered single in Utah based on the state’s marriage laws.

In their suit, the couples ask the court to declare Amendment 3 and any other marriage equality ban in Utah unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment and enjoining their enforcement.  The couples also ask the court to demand that Utah recognize Archer and Call’s Iowa marriage license as valid in Utah.

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