SALT LAKE CITY — Reaction to Monday's U.S. Supreme Court decision not to hear the state's appeal of a lower-court ruling allowing same-sex marriage included concern, celebration and calls for civility.
A weekend address by Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints during the church's semiannual general conference was often cited Monday as those on both sides of the issue weighed in.
Elder Oaks referred to "the strong tide that is legalizing same-sex marriage" and called for followers to "learn to live peacefully with others who do not share their values or accept the teachings upon which they are based.”
When the church's "positions do not prevail, we should accept unfavorable results graciously and practice civility with our adversaries,” he said, urging supporters of those positions not to be contentious.
“We should love all people, be good listeners, and show concern for their sincere beliefs. Though we may disagree, we should not be disagreeable. Our stands and communications on controversial topics should not be contentious," Elder Oaks said.
State Democratic Party Chairman Peter Corroon brought up the conference address in expressing his support for the court's decision.
"Today's decision acknowledges what Utahns have always known — families come in all shapes and sizes. All families are unique, have dignity and deserve equal protection under the law," Corroon said.
"This message," he said, "echoes statements delivered during this weekend's LDS conference — that everyone deserves respect, regardless of differing opinion on this emotional subject."
The state Democratic Party "also supports the Supreme Court's decision to protect both individual and religious liberties, meaning no church or religious organization will be compelled to an act that is against their beliefs," Corroon said.
Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake, a former state Democratic Party chairman, also referred to Elder Oaks' address, saying the LDS Church leader's words "heartened" the state's LGBT community.
"It is in that spirit of civility, cooperation and respect for diversity that we as Utahns should seek to move forward together and build an even greater state," Dabakis said.
He said the high court's decision allows lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender families "to no longer be second-class families. This is good for them and for Utah. Equality and fairness have always been Utah values."
Dabakis and his longtime partner were among the same-sex couples who married after U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby's December ruling that overturned a voter-approved amendment to the Utah Constitution that defined marriage as between a man and a woman.
Shelby's ruling was stayed about two weeks later and the status of the same-sex marriages performed were put on hold by the state pending the appeal. On Monday, the stay was lifted and same-sex marriage was again legal in Utah.
Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker, who officiated at Dabakis' and other same-sex weddings immediately after Shelby's ruling, celebrated the Supreme Court's decision.
"Today is a historic day for equal rights in Utah. I wish to congratulate all of the married couples in Salt Lake City who will now have their relationships legally recognized. This is a momentous occasion for civil rights in our state and nation," Becker said.
Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams said every legally married family will be treated equally by county government.
"Bridge-building and finding common ground is a task that remains for all of us in this community," McAdams said. "I'm confident we can do that in a way that is respectful and kind to all parties and that our diversity is a strength."
State GOP leaders didn't respond to requests for comment, but Republican members of Utah's congressional delegation raised concerns about the decision.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said in a statement he believes the high court will still eventually address the issue.
"These are only the first decisions to reach the Supreme Court on this issue, and likely won’t be the last. This issue is actively being litigated across the country and I believe that the court will eventually address it," Hatch said.
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said the decision was disappointing:
"Nothing in the Constitution forbids a state from retaining the traditional definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Whether to change that definition is a decision best left to the people of each state — not to unelected, politically unaccountable judges."
Lee said the high court "owes it to the people of those states, whose democratic choices are being invalidated, to review the question soon and reaffirm that states do have that right.”
Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, also said he was disappointed by the court's refusal to take up the Utah appeal.
"I personally believe that marriage is between one man and one woman and believe that Utahns have the right to decide what’s best for Utah. I am disappointed that the Supreme Court has failed to provide certainty and clarity for Utahns on this issue,” Stewart said.
Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, said the state needed clarity from the courts. Now, the legislative leader said, lawmakers will be looking at changing state law to comply with the decision without knowing whether it is permanent.
"What we face now is same-sex marriage in Utah with the potential, when (the Supreme Court does) address it, of having to put things in reverse," Niederhauser said. "That's the disappointing part. That's the discouragement. It just creates more questions than answers."
Lawmakers put discussion of any LGBT issues, including a statewide anti-discrimination law and religious liberty protections, on hold last session pending the outcome of the state's appeal.
The Senate president said all of those issues could resurface in the 2015 Legislature, which begins meeting in late January.
Outgoing House Minority Leader Jen Seelig, D-Salt Lake, said House Democrats "are excited to know that same-sex couples are no longer in legal limbo, and have a chance to be made whole with the legal recognition of their unions."
Seelig, who is not seeking re-election, said "today is a day to celebrate" and expressed the "hope that, in this decision, we can respect and support people of differing views. We are all a human family, a Utah family, and now we are a legally united one."
Charles Stormont, the Democratic candidate for attorney general, said he was not surprised by the ruling. Stormont has said the state should not have pursued the appeal, calling it a waste of time and money.
"The fact that not even four justices were willing to hear Utah’s case, or any of the other six cases addressing the same issue, demonstrates the weakness of the state's case," Stormont said. "After 10 months since the appeals began, now is the time for Sean Reyes to tell the people how much money he has wasted on these fruitless appeals."
Later Monday, Stormont sent out a fundraising email that noted his stand against the appeal.