By BRYAN GRAY
The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Davis Clipper.
In a typical December, the lead Utah story revolves around Santa Claus. This year, however, the most talked-about figure in Utah was a federal judge. For gay couples, the judge and Santa Claus were one and the same.
As I write this column, some 2,000 gay men and women have been “married” in Utah. I place quotes around the term “married” because some of you will never acknowledge that two people of the same gender can be wed. But in reality, the quotes are meaningless; what is important is the law, how county officials handed it, and the concepts the judge used in his ruling.
The major irritant to Utahns is that one non-elected judge can overturn the majority vote of the citizens. However, the will of the people is not the final say. In the early 1960s, the vast majority of voters in the Deep South wanted separate bathrooms and water fountains for African-Americans. Thankfully, a federal judge Р and with a little coaxing from Pres. Lyndon Johnson, and eventually Congress Р declared that the Constitution was more important than the desires of the voters. So the fact that 66% of Utahns voted for Amendment 3 banning gay marriage had little bearing for the judge.
The idea that the state’s two largest religions also oppose gay marriage received little traction either. The judge pointed out that by ruling for these religions, he would be discriminating against other religions which favor gay marriage Р and, in fact, a host of ministers and pastors were at county courthouses celebrating and officiating at the marriage events.
As for the groaning that one “activist” judge shouldn’t enforce his personal legal beliefs on an entire state, note that the appellate courts denied to temporarily stop gay marriages on the grounds that the State of Utah did not have a significant chance of winning its argument. That should give a little credence to the judge’s ruling even if you personally disagree with it.
When the ruling was announced I, like many of you, was shocked and surprised. I was also surprised by the swift (and, in my view, appropriate) action of my county attorney and the staff in my county clerk’s office. They didn’t try to evade the judge’s order. They simply accepted their legal role.
As the clerk’s office the following day, more than 100 couples Р all but a handful same-sex couples Р were married. Two young girls sat in the foyer and handed out fresh flowers to all who asked. A man anonymously approached the clerk’s counter, dropped off $1,000 and asked the clerks to use the money for marriage licenses for those unable to afford one.
The courthouse was filled with balloons, laughter, cupcakes, and relief Р and not for one moment did I feel that my marriage to a woman had been demeaned or made less worthy. In fact, my wife remarked, “We take marriage for granted because it’s so easy to do and also easy to end. I feel today that marriage is more important that I realized.”
Not everyone will agree and the arguments will continue in federal court chambers throughout the country. I don’t know how it will end; neither do you. But I take pride in the fact that most county officials and staff members understood that the rule of law takes precedence over their personal views. This is something we should all celebrate.