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Thursday, April 24, 2014 | Last updated: 7:14pm

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Judicial activism amiss in Utah case



Right now, it’s still up to individual states to decide what makes a marriage, and Utah is tired of its toes being stepped on by the federal courts. There is no room for activism among government officials — especially in regard to individual interpretation of the Constitution.

On June 26, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 in favor of overturning Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996, also known as DOMA. The decision of the Supreme Court regarding Section 3 was simple: They decided that the U.S. government has no right to prevent married couples from receiving spousal benefits in states other than where they were married. Section 2, which leaves the decision of same-sex marriage up to individual states, has yet to be overturned. That’s where Utah comes in.

Utah is not pleased with the decision of its federal court to legalize same-sex marriage. Officials issued a short-lived appeal, but, as of Dec. 23, 2013, same-sex marriages are to resume in Utah. This is much to the dismay of the conservative lawmakers of the state.

According to an article by The Huffington Post, it was U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby who deemed that Utah’s same-sex marriage ban was unconstitutional. Utah Gov. Gary Herbert referred to Shelby’s actions as those of an “activist federal judge attempting to override the will of the people of Utah.”

That will is heavily influenced by religion, which, according to Utah’s website, plays “an integral role in everyday life.” And with a religious population of over 79.1 percent, according to bestplaces.net, it’s a belief in the sanctity of traditional marriage that drives the large majority of the state to fight to repeal these laws.

Activism should not be tolerated in any court in the U.S. The governing of the U.S. has historically been “by the people, for the people.” A federal government official, according to their job definition, should not be in charge of deciding how things should be run for an entire state, against the will of the state’s majority. Utah is now victim to this activist mindset.

DOMA clearly gives states the power to decide the definition of marriage, power that comes from the voters and should be dependent on voters. Until the U.S. government has an official stance on gay marriage, legalizing gay marriage is not the decision of one man or one group; it is the decision of the state.

No matter what the right answer is regarding marriage, one thing should unify the nation: The government’s decisions should revolve around the opinion of the people it serves. Shelby’s act is an example, not of a valiant defender of human rights, but of a government deciding how much power it gets. He has decided to change a law based on his individual interpretation of the Constitution.

Is DOMA a violation of the Fifth Amendment? Probably. The Supreme Court has decided that, at the very least, part of it is. But until there’s an official ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, the federal courts cannot and should not take their own stances against the will of the states, the people and the country. Any opinion of the people deserves to be respected, especially in a nation based on the rights of its people.


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