When U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia handed down a scathing dissent in United States v. Windsor — the case in which the high court deemed the anti-gay Defence of Marriage Act unconstitutional — he warned of the domino effect it would have on state bans on gay marriage.
His prediction came true on Friday, when U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby ruled that Utah’s 2004 ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional. And Shelby even made note of Scalia’s dissent at points in his ruling, citing it as part of his reasoning in striking down the Utah law.
Scalia warned that the Supreme Court’s reasoning that struck down the Defence of Marriage Act — which denied federal benefits to same-sex couples — could be used to strike down state laws banning same-sex marriage. Scalia, who’s notoriously anti-gay marriage, was saying this was a bad thing. In an interesting twist, Utah’s Judge Shelby quoted Scalia’s negative prophecy in his pro-gay marriage opinion:
“In my opinion, however, the view that this Court will take of state prohibition of same-sex marriage is indicated beyond mistaking by today’s opinion. As I have said, the real rationale of today’s opinion … is that DOMA is motivated by ‘bare … desire to harm’ couples in same-sex marriages. How easy it is, indeed how inevitable, to reach the same conclusion with regard to state laws denying same-sex couples marital status.”
Shelby then wrote that he “agreed” with that part of Scalia’s opinion, and offered his response. Though Scalia meant it as some kind of dire warning, Shelby cited the Supreme Court’s decision as a reason to overturn Utah’s law:
The court agrees with Justice Scalia’s interpretation of Windsor and finds that the important federalism concerns at issue here are nevertheless insufficient to save a state-law prohibition that denies the Plaintiffs their rights to due process and equal protection under the law.
Shelby also cited Scalia’s dissent in 2003’s Lawrence v. Texas, the landmark case in which the Supreme Court ruled that laws banning sodomy were unconstitutional:
The court therefore agrees with the portion of Justice Scalia’s dissenting opinion in Lawrence in which Justice Scalia stated that the Court’s reasoning logically extends to protect an individual’s right to marry a person of the same sex.
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