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Utah att’y gen’l seeks to halt same-sex marriages

Tarbet says ruling shifts away ‘from society’s understanding of what marriage is’



Gary Herbert, Utah, Republican Party, gay news, Washington Blade
Gary Herbert, Utah, Republican Party, gay news, Washington Blade

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert is seeking to halt same-sex marriages in Utah. (Photo public domain)

The governor of Utah and the state’s acting attorney general are calling for a halt to same-sex marriages in the state following a wave of couples exchanging vows after a court ruling instituting marriage equality.

Acting Attorney General Brian Tarbet — along with attorneys for Gov. Gary Herbert — filed two requests on Friday for emergency stays. One is before the district court that struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, the other is before the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, where it is anticipated state officials will appeal the decision.

The request before the district court, which stunned the nation by delivering a surprise ruling in favor of marriage equality in the country’s most conservative state, says a stay should be put in place because the Tenth Circuit has no precedent for marriage equality and other courts have upheld bans on same-sex marriage.

“This Court’s decision constitutes a fundamental shift away from society’s understanding of what marriage is,” the requests states. “For over one hundred years Utah has adhered to a definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman and has never recognized as a marriage any other kind of relationship…And, Utah does not stand alone. A majority of States adhere to the same definition of marriage.”

Moreover, Herbert’s attorneys write that continuing to allow same-sex couples to wed could subject them to “irreparable harm” if a higher court decides to overturn the ruling.

“Such marriages would be entered into under a cloud of uncertainty,” the requests states. “Should the appeal be successful those couples may suffer irreparable harm when their marriages are declared invalid.”

The decision on instituting a stay won’t happen immediately. According to the Associated Press, the attorney general’s office reportedly said the judge would need a couple of days to review any request for an emergency stay.

UPDATE: In response to the state’s request for a stay, U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby scheduled a hearing on Monday at 9 am. The docket doesn’t give any indication of whether Shelby will announce a decision once the hearing is complete, or at a later time.

Shelby also gives the plaintiff same-sex couples in the case until 5 pm on Sunday to respond to the stay, and defendants the opportunity the reply to that response.

Attorneys representing the plaintiffs at Magleby and Greenwood PC already responded to the request before the Tenth Circuit, saying the state didn’t address issues the appellate court considers important in deciding whether to grant a stay.

“[A]s the District Court explained in its summary judgment order, ‘the harm experienced by same- sex couples in Utah as a result of their inability to marry is undisputed’ in this matter,” the brief states.

In a blog post, University of Southern California law professor David Cruz writes that Shelby is “unlikely” to grant a stay on Utah same-sex marriage, and if the Tenth Circuit does, it won’t be the result of the state’s arguments.

“It can be hard to convince judges that they made a mistake in their rulings,” Cruz said. “But the state officials did not even make much effort here. Their position basically was a safety-in-numbers argument: we’ve got lots of cases we cited upholding laws excluding same-sex couples from marriage.”

The ruling in favor marriage equality unleashed of wave of gay couples applying for marriage licenses in the few hours on Friday after the decision was handed down, but before the clerks’ offices closed.

According to KSL News, the Salt Lake City county clerk issued between 115 and 120 marriage licenses, breaking a record for the number issued in one day. Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker was at the clerk’s office and performed 35 same-sex marriages. State Sen. Jim Dabakis, who’s gay and chair of the Utah Democratic Party married his longtime partner Stephen Justesen.

But not all gay couples were allowed the opportunity to wed. According to Reuters, same-sex couples also tried to obtain marriage licenses in Weber County, Washington County, Davis County and Utah County, but clerks there turned them away on the grounds that they needed to see the federal court ruling and evaluate it.

Meanwhile, the Salt Lake City county clerk pledged to open again on Saturday at 11 am to accommodate more couples seeking to wed.

The window of opportunity for these gay couples may be short. If the courts institute a stay on the ruling as requested by the state, it would mean gay couples would no longer be able to obtain marriage licenses from clerks throughout the state.

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  1. Walter Smirth

    December 21, 2013 at 5:13 pm

    Aside from polygamy, the Mormon church has been in favor of old fasioned one woman one man marriage.

  2. Preston Nickolas Alexander

    December 21, 2013 at 5:22 pm

    A very nice but unexpected Christmas Gift to my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters in Utah! Many years of happiness to all of you.

  3. Jeffery Hughes

    December 21, 2013 at 5:50 pm

    Church and marriage are based on proliferating their membership through procreation. Of course this is not the typical outcome of a gay relationship. If it was then, I believe, churches would not have any issues with gay marriage. The predominant church in Utah not only accepted polygamy but actively encouraged it. Why? Because impregnating multiple women increased their membership. It wasn't until 1890, when then President Woodruff threatened the church's status, that it was announced that the practice was no longer acceptable. I wonder how long it will be before their status comes under fire over their anti-gay agenda? How much longer still until a senior church official comes out and apologizes for their oppression of this group?

  4. Ullrich Braun

    December 21, 2013 at 5:54 pm

    Marriage is not a religious institution. No church can legally sanction a marriage. Without a marriage license from the state, a church marriage is legally invalid. There are many people, including atheists, who do not have church weddings. There are also many Christian denominations which perform same sex marriages in their churches, e.g. Quakers. To deny those churches the right to perform those marriages is a violation of freedom of religion.

  5. wayne

    December 21, 2013 at 2:39 pm

    The State of Utah encouraged mob rule to invade the US Constitution. It and every one of those bigots shall now pay the price in infamy!

  6. Howard Lemcke

    December 22, 2013 at 5:40 pm

    BTW: This is the same AG's office that last year, in a case involving roadside cross memorials on public lands for fallen Highway Patrol Officers, argued that in 2013 the cross is no longer 'universally' viewed as a religious symbol, while losing that case. And, therefore, in 2013 the 'universal' view of marriage is……?

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Victory Fund honors gay Guatemalan congressman at D.C. conference

Aldo Dávila a vocal critic of country’s government



Guatemalan Congressman Aldo Dávila speaks at the 2021 International LGBTQ Leaders Conference after he received the Global Trailblazer Award. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

The Victory Fund on Friday honored an openly gay Guatemalan congressman who has faced death threats because of his efforts to fight corruption in his country.

Dávila — a member of the Winaq movement, a leftist party founded by Rigoberta Menchú, an indigenous human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner — in 2019 became the first openly gay man elected to Guatemala’s congress. Dávila, who also lives with HIV, had previously been the executive director of Asociación Gente Positiva, a Guatemala City-based HIV/AIDS service organization.

Supporters of President Alejandro Giammattei have lodged several formal complaints against Dávila after he publicly criticized the government over corruption, its response to the pandemic and other issues.

Three men on April 19 approached Dávila’s vehicle near Guatemala’s National Library and tried to rob him. One of Dávila’s bodyguards shot one of the men, but the two other assailants fled the scene before police officers and passersby arrived.

Dávila told the Washington Blade in September during an interview at a Guatemala City hotel that he and his partner installed cameras in their apartment after someone killed their dog.

Two female police officers who arrived at the hotel with Dávila sat in the lobby while he spoke with the Blade. The government a few weeks later reduced his security detail.

“Guatemala is living through the worst democratic crisis in the last 40 years,” said Dávila after he accepted the Victory Fund’s Global Trailblazer Award at its 2021 International LGBTQ Leaders Conference that is taking place in-person at the JW Marriott in downtown D.C. “Guatemala right now is being paralyzed by corruption and impunity and my voice is uncomfortable because of this.”

Dávila became emotional at the end of his remarks.

“I will keep fighting for our rights,” he said.

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Comings & Goings

Nathanson takes role at Outright Action



Rikki Nathanson

The Comings & Goings column is about sharing the professional successes of our community. We want to recognize those landing new jobs, new clients for their business, joining boards of organizations and other achievements. Please share your successes with us at: [email protected] 

The Comings & Goings column also invites LGBTQ+ college students to share their successes with us. If you have been elected to a student government position, gotten an exciting internship, or are graduating and beginning your career with a great job, let us know so we can share your success. 

Congratulations to Rikki Nathanson on her new position as Senior Advisor – Global Trans Program with OutRight Action International in New York. Nathanson will be based in D.C.  

 “I am absolutely thrilled to be taking on this new role as Senior Advisor in OutRight’s Global Trans Program,” said Nathanson. “I have finally found the perfect fit for me: as a trans woman who has been fighting for equality not only for myself, but for others globally, this position is not only a job, it’s intrinsically part of who I am. So, what better way to live, nurture and grow myself.” 

Nathanson will be working closely with all program staff to ensure a cohesive and intentional approach to gender issues throughout OutRight’s programs, including its approach to gender ideology movements. She will lead new initiatives on gender advocacy and policy change, focused but not limited to legal gender recognition and anti-discrimination legislation and policies.

Prior to this Nathanson was director of housing programs at Casa Ruby in D.C. She has also held a number of other positions including: founder/executive director of Trans Research, Education, Advocacy & Training (TREAT), Zimbabwe; chairperson Southern Africa Trans Forum, SATF, Cape Town, South Africa; executive director, Ricochet Modeling Agency, Zimbabwe; and company secretary for Dunlop Zimbabwe Limited, Zimbabwe. 

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SMYAL Director Shakir to step down Dec. 31

Board to launch Executive Search beginning in January



SMYAL Executive Director Sultan Shakir addresses the crowd at the 2021 Fall Brunch. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Sultan Shakir, who has served as executive director of D.C.’s LGBTQ youth advocacy organization SMYAL since August 2014, announced on Friday that he will be stepping down from his position effective Dec. 31.

In a Dec. 3 announcement, SMYAL said details of Shakir’s future career plans would be announced in the coming weeks.

“While we are sad to see Sultan leave, we wish him nothing but the same success in his new endeavor as he had at SMYAL,” said Rob Cogorno, SMYAL’s board chair. “His leadership and vision enabled SMYAL to expand greatly needed services to LGBTQ youth in the DC metro area throughout his tenure,” Cogorno said.

“I am immensely proud of the work we have been able to accomplish together in my time at SMYAL,” Shakir said in a statement released by SMYAL. “SMYAL has been an integral and vital resource in the DMV community for over 37 years, and while we have come a long way in combating homophobia, transphobia, racism, sexual health stigma, homelessness, violence against the LGBTQ community, and oppression, we have a long way to go,” he said.

“This work has never been about one person,” said Shakir. “SMYAL was founded by our community and we’re still around because of our community,” he said. “I leave knowing that the commitment and passion of the SMYAL Board, staff, volunteers, and youth leaders have created a solid foundation from which our work will continue to grow until LGBTQ youth no longer need us.”

The SMYAL statement says that under Shakir’s tenure, SMYAL, which stands for Supporting and Mentoring Youth Advocates and Leaders, expanded its programs and services for LGBTQ youth. Among other things, in 2017 SMYAL opened its first of several housing facilities for homeless LGBTQ youth that include culturally competent case management, education and employment assistance.

“The Youth Housing Program now comprises five programmatic models that serve a combined 61 youth residents,” the statement says.

It points out that also under Shakir’s leadership, SMYAL expanded the age range of the youth its programs serve under a new Little SMYALs program, which welcomes LGBTQ youth ages 6-12. And earlier in 2021 under Shakir’s guidance, SMYAL began a new Clinical Services Department “which provides affirming and accessible mental health counseling,” the statement says.

“The SMYAL Board of Directors will officially launch an Executive Search beginning in January 2022 and expects to have named a new Executive Director by summer 2022,” the statement says. It says the board will soon name an interim executive director to work with SMYAL’s Deputy Executive Director, Jorge Membreno, and the organization’s leadership team to oversee the day-to-day activities until a new executive director is named.

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