In Utah, where a federal judge earlier this month overturned a state ban on same-sex marriage, many homosexual couples celebrated the Christmas season by tying the knot.
As of Thursday last week, clerks in the state had issued over 1,225 marriage licenses following the judge’s ruling, according to a tally by The Salt Lake Tribune. Three-quarters of those licenses—more than 900—went to homosexual couples. Since the licenses cost an average of $40, they brought in over $49,000 in state revenue in just 3 1/2 days, the paper said.
Most gay and lesbian marriages took place in Salt Lake County, Utah’s most populous county. On Dec. 23, the first business day following the court ruling, Salt Lake County issued 353 marriage licenses, breaking the previous single-day record of 85.
As gay couples formed a line that day at the county clerk’s office that stretched along two floors, Peter Brownstein, the leader of an inactivated Boy Scout troop, passed out free slices of Little Caesar’s pizza. “I … celebrated Hanukkah, not Christmas. But this seems in the spirit of Christmas,” said Brownstein, who is Jewish, according to CNN. Brownstein and his 14-year-old son, Michael, wore their Boy Scout uniforms while handing out the pizza. The father wore a rainbow neckerchief.
It wasn’t the first time Brownstein used his Boy Scout affiliation to promote homosexuality. His superiors reprimanded him in June after Brownstein participated in the Utah Pride Parade while wearing his uniform. “We were very disappointed that you used Scouting to advance the gay agenda at the Utah Pride Parade,” wrote leaders from the Great Salt Lake Council of the Boy Scouts of America at the time. In September, the United Jewish Federation of Utah, the sponsor of Brownstein’s troop, shut down all troop activities.
U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby, an appointee of President Barack Obama, ruled Dec. 20 that Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage—enacted by two statutes and an amendment to the Utah Constitution—was discriminatory. “The court holds that Utah’s prohibition on same-sex marriage conflicts with the United States Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection and due process under the law. The state’s current laws deny its gay and lesbian citizens their fundamental right to marry and, in so doing, demean the dignity of these same-sex couples for no rational reason," Shelby wrote.
Sixty-six percent of Utah voters approved the state’s constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage in 2004. Salt Lake City has for several years allowed homosexuals and other couples who share financial responsibilities to join a “Mutual Commitment Registry” declaring a relationship of “mutual commitment, support, and caring.”
The state of Utah is seeking to have Shelby’s decision overturned. Last week, state officials said they planned to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to pause the issuing of Utah marriage licenses while the case is appealed. Although the Supreme Court earlier this year ruled on California's now-defunct same-sex marriage ban, Proposition 8, the court only ruled on a jurisdictional question and has not yet said whether it considers same-sex marriage fundamentally constitutional.
“I am very disappointed an activist federal judge is attempting to override the will of the people of Utah,” said Gov. Gary Herbert following Shelby’s ruling. Herbert said he would work with state attorneys to “defend traditional marriage within the borders of Utah.”