U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby's ruling in December 2013 that Utah's ban on same-sex marriage violates the US Constitution is likely headed to the US Supreme Court on appeals, where the matter of marriage equality as a constitutional right could be decided once and for all.
The deeply religious state of Utah, in fighting to stop marriage equality, must maintain the pretense that it is motivated by "legitimate state concerns" rather than religious objections (since the U.S. Constitution prohibits the state from favoring a religious viewpoint).
Interestingly, there is a religious perspective that marriage equality is a form of religious freedom, since marriage is the basis of "spiritual" growth. The state cannot argue on the basis of religion, but those fighting for marriage equality can. For details, see the blog entry below by Miles Kimball, an economics professor (and apparent Christian) at the University of Michigan.
How effective would an argument like this be in front of the Supreme Court? It wouldn't have to be the only argument, but it could be another arrow in the quiver.
"Gay marriage is a matter of religious freedom for two reasons: First, a substantial component of the opposition to legalizing gay marriage is religious in origin. This is particularly true in Utah, where the Mormon Church has taken a lead role in opposing gay marriage. Leave aside religious objections to gay marriage and what remains would be unlikely to garner much respect. As Judge Shelby reminded us in his opinion, “the regulation of constitutionally protected decisions, such as … whom [a person] shall marry, must be predicated on legitimate state concerns other than disagreement with the choice the individual has made.” It is easy to come up with religious concerns about gay marriage; not so easy to come up with “legitimate state concerns.”
"What’s not said as often is that gay marriage is itself an exercise of religious freedom. As many with good marriages know from experience, marriage is one of the most powerful paths toward spiritual growth. A good spouse helps one to see the aspects of oneself that one is too blind to see, and inspires efforts to be a better person. And when two human beings know each other so well, and interact so thickly, the family they create is something new and wonderful in the world, even when there are no children in the picture. And for those who do choose to have children, but cannot bear their own biologically, adoption is a tried and true path.
"To those who would dispute that the freedom to marry the one person you love above all others is a matter of religious freedom, let me argue that if I am wrong that this is a matter of religious freedom, that it is a freedom that should be treated in the same way. "