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As Utah goes, so goes the nation?

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Michael Ferguson married Seth Anderson on Friday in Utah.


If today same sex marriage can occur in Utah - the most conservative state in the union - then tomorrow it can happen nationally.

Friday's decision by federal court Judge Robert Shelby to overturn Amendment 3, Utah's constitutional ban on same sex marriage, represents a truly seismic shift in the ongoing fight for national same sex marriage rights and it was the first and most dramatic victory for marriage equality since the Supreme Court overturned the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

Conservatives already know, or the most clear-sighted ones do, that the Supreme Court ruling in the DOMA case means that eventually same sex marriage will be a federal reality from coast to coast. But they clearly wanted to run out the clock - for decades, if at all possible - rather than face the writing on the Supreme Court wall.

Friday's ruling has reminded us that that will not be possible.

Judge Shelby, who had been bound by a Tenth Circuit court ruling, was prevented from applying heightened scrutiny in deciding the Utah case, which meant he had to consider Utah’s marriage ban according to a rational basis review.

If the state government could provide the court with any convincing justification for Amendment 3 — even if it's not the purpose for which it was originally passed — then the law would have been upheld.

But the state couldn't provide any convincing justification. As it turned out Judge Shelby wrote that heightened scrutiny didn't even become necessary to decide the case because 'the law discriminates on the basis of sexual identity without a rational reason to do so.'

Referencing the Supreme Court's now famous Windsor verdict, Judge Shelby then shot freeway-sized holes though each of the arguments the state had made when he delivered his verdict.

The shocked scramble that occurred in the Governor Gary Herbert's office on Friday evening was a proof of his thoughtless complacency.

It's safe to imagine the patriarchs of Utah, many of whom had pushed for and significantly funded the unprecedented but now dismantled Proposition 8 in California, had never considered the fight they brought to the left coast would come this quickly to their own doors.

But the thing about gays, that can still come as a terrific surprise in the reddest of red states, is that they're everywhere. Within an hour of Judge Shelby's ruling hundreds of gay couples were lining up for marriage licenses in Salt Lake City and state wide.

We know how this waltz plays out. Governor Herbert will apply for a stay, grouse about this 'activist judge,' and take the ruling to a court he likes hoping to have it overturned.

But the thing is, the train has long left the station. Governor Herbert's office supported what they called the 'emergency' stay because they said Judge Shelby's ruling had created a 'chaotic situation.'

Chaos, emergency? Really? The world just saw a few hundred delighted looking gay couples line up to marry their long term partners. It didn't look like the Battle of Hastings to me.

Interestingly Judge Shelby is the first federal judge to rule on the right of states to ban marriage, which means he is dealing with federal law, which means his ruling goes beyond Utah's border.

Friday's ruling underlined that the state ban on same-sex marriage irreparably harmed couples for no good reason. As the Supreme Court ruled on DOMA this summer, so ruled Shelby on Amendment 3 on Friday.

It was always just a matter of time, the point is now that time has grown dramatically shorter.

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