U.S. Supreme Court halts same-sex marriages in Utah

SALT LAKE CITY – The U.S. Supreme Court granted Utah’s request to halt same-sex marriages Monday in the wake of a federal ruling striking down Utah’s ban on such marriages. As for the status of same-sex marriages that have taken place since the initial ruling, the Utah Attorney General’s office said they are currently in a state of “legal limbo.”

Last week the Utah Attorney General’s Office appealed to the Supreme Court for the emergency stay of a Dec. 20, 2013 ruling by federal district Judge Robert Shelby. Shelby struck down Utah’s voter-approved Amendment 3, which only recognizes marriage as being between one man and one woman, as unconstitutional. In the wake of the ruling hundreds of same-sex couples across the state rushed to county clerks’ offices for marriage licenses.

The Utah Attorney General’s Office appealed to Shelby to put a stay on his ruling until the state could appeal the ruling as a whole. Shelby denied the request, as did the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals when the state appealed to it. It was at this point that newly-appointed Attorney General Sean Reyes sent a request for a stay to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The request went to Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who receives and reviews appeals to 10th Circuit Court rulings. She referred the request to the Supreme Court as a whole. The Supreme Court approved the stay in a brief decision that granted an emergency halt to same-sex marriages. The high court has not yet issued a statement as to why it approved the state’s request.

“The ruling can be interpreted as an indication that the court wants to have further exploration in lower courts of the basic constitutional question of state power to limit marriage to a man and a woman,” wrote Lyle Denniston on the SCOTUS blog. “Had it refused the state’s request for delay, that would have left at least the impression that the court was comfortable allowing same-sex marriages to go forward in the 33 states where they are still not permitted by state law.”

“The Supreme Court has made the correct decision,” Gov. Gary Herbert said in a statement on the matter. “I firmly believe this is a states-rights issue and I will work to defend the position of the people of Utah and our state constitution.”

As to the current status of the hundreds of same-sex marriages already conducted in the state – an estimated 950 according to the SCOTUS blog – it is uncertain. During a press conference following the high court’s granting the stay, newly-appointed Attorney General Sean Reyes said the marriages are currently in “legal limbo” and that the attorney general’s office will be evaluating the legal fate of such unions.

“Clearly, a stay should have been granted with the original district court decision in order to have avoided the uncertainty by this unprecedented change,” Herbert said.

The stay restores Amendment 3 as the law of the land, at least for now pending a final decision by the federal courts once an appeal is heard.

Briefing for the case is scheduled to begin on Jan. 27 and is to be completed by Feb. 25. Reyes said his office and the lawyers representing the same-sex couples who originally brought the suit to court are working together to expedite the process.

The attorney general’s office has put out a request for proposal – a bid in a sense – for outside counsel to aid it in its appeal. An early estimate of the cost to see the appeal through has been set at $2 million. Reyes said in the press conference that the amount is preliminary. The appeals process could cost below that number or exceed it.

Though the governor and attorney general are happy with the Supreme Court’s decision, others are not.

“Despite today’s decision, we are hopeful that the lower court’s well-reasoned decision will be upheld in the end and that courts across the country will continue to recognize that all couples should have the freedom to marry,” said Joshua Block, staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project.

John Mejia, legal director of the ACLU of Utah, said the state should honor those marriage that have already taken place.

“Though future marriages are on hold for now,” Mejia said, “the state should recognize as valid those marriages that have already been issued, and those couples should continue to be treated as married by the federal government.”

The ALCU filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the Utah case and other cases involving challenges to same-sex marriage bans in other states.

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Email: mkessler@stgnews.com

Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2014, all rights reserved.

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32 Comments

  • Mike January 6, 2014 at 2:18 pm

    Finally. It is about time.

    • skippy January 7, 2014 at 10:51 am

      Indeed, it is ABOUT time. Recent trends suggest that this issue will resolve in the favor of individual choice and freedoms, which is generally a good thing for the species. But as an ostensibly “straight” male, if I was interested in imposing my own wants and needs on the world, I would ban same-sex marriage between women and require same-sex marriage between as many men as possible. You see where I’m headed… 🙂

  • Craig January 6, 2014 at 2:30 pm

    This is only the beginning of the fight. Equality WILL come to Utah.

    • WB January 7, 2014 at 2:18 pm

      Equality in this matter already exists in Utah. The same qualifications for (or restrictions on) marriage apply equally to everyone, regardless of sexual feelings.

  • anonymous January 6, 2014 at 2:48 pm

    Just shows there is no such thing as separation of church and state.

    • Silly Mormons January 6, 2014 at 3:06 pm

      Not in Utah. People are blinded by their controlling religion in Utah. They enjoy less freedoms than anyone else in this country. That probably accounts for their high rate of suicides, prescription drug dependency, depression and violence against women.

    • Zeke January 6, 2014 at 3:31 pm

      So you’re saying the Supreme Court is a religious group?

    • Robert January 6, 2014 at 11:24 pm

      Seperation of church and state has nothing to do with this all that means is the United States cannot declare one religon as the nations religon..learn your history!!

  • Silly Mormons January 6, 2014 at 3:04 pm

    Those silly mormons, the ones against same-sex marriages probably think when their religion allowed for little girls to be forced into marriages to perverted elderly men lusting for sex with little girls is a good thing.

    • Mike January 6, 2014 at 4:07 pm

      Why do you assume that every person in Utah that is against gay marriage is Mormon? There are several of us non Mormons living here as well. And as far as freedoms go, go live in California for a while. You can’t do anything in Cali because of all their liberal agenda.

  • Silly Uneducated People January 6, 2014 at 4:13 pm

    Maybe people should become educated before making assumptions about religion. Yes, there is articles about FUNDAMENTALIST Mormons forcing marriages, but that is what they are articles filled with one persons words I don’t know for sure what goes on, but LDS people will get excommunicated for that type of action.

  • Lil' Giant January 6, 2014 at 4:22 pm

    I’m not a Utah momo nor a Utah homo. But it is nice to see at least one court that is smart enough to allow the appeal process to be completed BEFORE the law becomes final law of the state. For something like a government issued license, it makes no sense to have the result become a rule and take place when the case is not finally resolved.

    Btw haters, the above opinion has nothing to do with equality and everything to do with order and process.

    • mark boggs January 6, 2014 at 10:00 pm

      So I assume if the city of Chicago appeals the ruling striking down their gun ban, you’ll be fully behind the city continuing to bar citizens from owning guns? I mean, “it makes no sense to have the result become a rule and take place when the case is not finally resolved.” Am I right?

      FWIW, not only is the city of Chicago up in the night to have a gun ban, the state of Utah is up in the night thinking that keeping gays from legal equality is going to save us all from some horrible and certain fate.

      • Lil' Giant January 7, 2014 at 9:07 am

        Yes you are right in concept. I don’t know much about Chicago’s ban, but the concept applies equally. For the law to have the dignity and profundity it requires to govern society, we need to permit the process of the law to be fully completed before we allow challenges to the law to be practiced. It makes no sense to have both sides there arguing that they are prejudiced because the marriages have both started (for the antis) and will be stopped (for the pros). Leave the status quo and allow the process to have one final resolution. Regardless of the issue.

        • mark boggs January 7, 2014 at 12:07 pm

          I suppose as long as you’re consistent. I still don’t agree with you. But maybe that’s because I see both laws (one banning guns and one barring equality) as being so wrong-headed as the only logical result is them being struck down.
          .
          Sort of like laws that discriminate on the basis of race or religion; they’re so wrong-headed that they should not be allowed to stand while racists and anti-religious (or religious) bigots appeal them.

      • Lil' Giant January 7, 2014 at 12:10 pm

        Amazing I just read this today about your Chicago gun ban: http://www.ksl.com/?sid=28267987&nid=157&title=federal-judge-ban-on-gun-sales-unconstitutional&fm=home_page&s_cid=queue-4

        Notice the second paragraph where the Judge stays his ruling until the appeal process can be completed. Makes sense huh?

        • mark boggs January 7, 2014 at 3:40 pm

          And part of my understanding is that both sides often do ask in advance of the ruling if the judge will consider a stay while they decide on an appeal should they not win the case. It is also my understanding that the state of Utah did not do that, whether because of the tumult in the AG’s office at that point or simply out of arrogance that they couldn’t possibly lose. Which was part of the reason why the state was denied a stay the previous 4 or 5 times they asked for one until Sotomayor passed it on to the full court for a decision.

  • Estela January 6, 2014 at 5:28 pm

    I hope this will be resolved soon. So many families at limbo and i am happy that some couples were able to make thier dreams come true. I’ve lived in a mormon town for 33 years and They still can’t change my open mindness.

  • Patti January 6, 2014 at 6:27 pm

    Utah has millions to blow on “who cares who marries who”. Why don’t they let us vote again? Oh no..”we no longer care what anyone has to say. We are Utah!” We can’t be human and love one another….now can we?

    • Lil' Giant January 7, 2014 at 9:09 am

      No one is stopping the people from voting again. Utah law has voter-intiated processes such as Initiative, Referendum, and Recall. If you care so strongly, get one started ASAP and get it on the next ballot.

      Don’t wait around and complain…the avenues exist today.

  • ladybugavenger January 6, 2014 at 9:56 pm

    it’s Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve

    • Craig January 7, 2014 at 6:09 am

      It’s Adam and Eve for you….Adam and Steve for someone else…And if you believe in a loving God, He did in fact create Adam and Steve.

      • ladybugavenger January 7, 2014 at 6:10 pm

        I didn’t mean to offend you…adam and craig

  • Dean January 7, 2014 at 2:15 am

    I read this statement on a gun blog the other day, it was a response to a comment that said only military should own guns “you have the freedom to believe that, and because you have that freedom, you have absolutely no right to tell me if I should own a gun or not” I think the same can be said for gay marriage. people have the freedom to believe whatever they want, but that doesn’t give them the right to tell someone else how to live.

  • mater January 7, 2014 at 8:33 am

    this law was put in place demarcaticly the way it should be done. it was reversed judiciusly witch is bs no law voted on by the people should ever be reversed by one or twevle.opinions aside thats the way our country was set up and no amount of protesting by special intrest groups should ever be able to change it .

    • Ron January 7, 2014 at 12:09 pm

      You need to learn how this country functions. The majority does NOT get to trump the rights of minorities. You also need to learn how to spell . . . but that’s beside the point.

      • :P January 7, 2014 at 11:35 pm

        If its becides the point, then why did you say it. All I hear with most the comments on this article are people pointing fingers and getting all upset at “Mormons” who are only standing up for what they believe. Let people exercise their beliefs whether they are Christian, Jewish, Atheist, or any other faith. Utah’s definition of marriage is between a man and woman. Why not come up with a new name for same sex unions?

  • lp January 7, 2014 at 8:52 am

    How does a gay couple getting legally married affect the people that rail against it?

    • skippy January 7, 2014 at 11:03 am

      Well, for one, it affords them the same federal rights and benefits that boy/girl marriages enjoy. So now yer taxus ‘s s’portin’ abom’nation…

  • skippy January 7, 2014 at 12:11 pm

    One of the many arguments offered in the debate over same-sex marriage relates to child-rearing. Some say the population will decline so dramatically that we’ll suffer as a species. Some argue that children prosper better when parented by both a mother and a father. Just for argument’s sake, let’s assume that the latter argument has merit and that I’m a citizen of Utah who wants to maintain the ban against same-sex marriage, for whatever reasons. Because the research is still inconclusive on the question of what parental (homo, hetero) arrangements best benefit a child, I might instead just focus on the advantages of a mother/father arrangement and then press the other side show how a mother/mother or father/father situation outdoes mine.

    One place to start might be the state laws related to child custody and contact when heterosexual couples divorce. I would need to show how the laws reflect a genuine interest in children having strong and abiding relationships with both mom and dad throughout and after the separation. I might reference laws that seek to maintain equitable contact for both parents and that do not imply a preference for one or the other parent. I might also give evidence of court practices that frown upon preferences based on gender, and I would provide examples of cases in which evidence of alienating behavior on the part of one parent (moving children away without court notice, repeated protective orders that are dismissed, violating temporary parent-time orders, introducing a new “mother” or “father” into the children’s lives, etc.) was met with strong disapproval by the courts. I might even construct an equivalent term for mothers whose actions mirror those of a “deadbeat dad.” You get the gist. Then I’d focus research on how this approach produces better outcomes for children than those of other states…like Utah…

  • lp January 7, 2014 at 1:29 pm

    A law isnt going to make less people be homosexuals. And honestly, does it really matter if populations decline? Arent we overpopulated as it is? Families with same sex parents will continue with or without same sex marriage being legal.

  • Not a Joseph Smith follower January 8, 2014 at 9:06 pm

    I grew up in the Mormon religion… I find it funny that a religion that was chased out of several states in the east coast for practicing their religious beliefs. Are discriminating other people for there own beliefs. Doesn’t say in the bible not to judge? You are not God! Let people live the way they want too! And mind your damn business! This is why I’m not a mormon.

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