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Gay marriage will come to the 37 states without it, including Utah, within the next five years.
That's the prediction of Chad Griffin, who spearheaded the challenge to California's Proposition 8 and is president of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights organization.
The Supreme Court's Wednesday ruling on Prop 8 cleared the way for gay marriage to return to California. The court also struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which denies federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples.
"In light of yesterday's historic rulings, I've come to Utah today because we can't tolerate the persistence of two Americas when it comes to equality," Griffin said during a Thursday press conference at the Utah Pride Center.
"In the other America, in the 37 states without marriage equality, like my home state of Arkansas, or right here in Utah,even the most basic statewide legal protections are nonexistent," he said. "Within five years, we will bring marriage equality to all 50 of our states, yes, right here in the state of Utah," Griffin said.
The press conference was part celebration and part challenge, as officials from the Utah Pride Center, ACLU of Utah, Equality Utah and Bruce Bastian, the Utah resident and WordPerfect co-founder who helped bankroll the court cases, spoke about the historic rulings.
Griffin traveled Wednesday morning from the steps of the Supreme Court to a celebration that night in Los Angeles, then took a Thursday morning flight to Salt Lake City. California will become the 13th state to allow gay marriage, following the court's decision that opponents of same-sex marriage in the state did not have the legal right to defend Prop 8. State voters passed the ban on gay marriage, but federal courts overturned it.
Leading a coalition of more than two dozen LGBT organizations from the nation's most conservative states, the Utah Pride Center filed a friend-of-the-court brief outlining the impact of legislation such as Prop 8 and DOMA on gay and transgender Americans.
The Utah Pride Center was represented at the Supreme Court by lawyers Paul Burke and Brett Tolman.
Asked Thursday whether Utah's constitutional ban against same-sex marriage, Amendment 3, will stand, Tolman said, "The Supreme Court's decision, which identified the due process and equal protection clauses of the federal Constitution, creates for us what we think are the cracks in that constitutional discriminatory dam now at issue here in Utah."
Karen McCreary, executive director of ACLU of Utah, said the ACLU brought its first LGBT case before the courts in 1936.
"Yesterday was definitely a tipping point," McCreary said. "The striking down of DOMA on the basis of equal protection ... is what our Constitution means."
After the press conference, when asked whether he also expects gay marriage to come to Utah within five years, Bastian said: "I think it's totally probable with or without the [LDS] Church's blessing."