ST. GEORGE – Utah’s efforts to stop the impact of a federal court decision finding its marriage statute excluding same-sex marriage unconstitutional were again frustrated Tuesday, this time by the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeal.
On Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Shelby issued a memorandum decision finding Utah’s marriage statute unconstitutional as to that part known as Amendment 3 which passed with the support of over 66 percent of the voters in 2004. Amendment 3 defined marriage in Utah as consisting only between a man and a woman and affirmatively denying recognition of any other domestic union.
By Friday afternoon, same-sex couples were seeking marriage licenses from clerks across the state.
Friday evening, discussions were had between representatives for the state, the plaintiffs in the case, and Shelby in which the state sought to make an oral motion for emergency stay. A stay would put a halt to the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples pending an appeal of Shelby’s ruling by the state. Shelby denied the state’s request to make its motion orally on Friday night and set a hearing on the request for emergency stay for Monday morning.
After hearing the parties on the motion Monday, Shelby denied the state’s request for emergency stay. The judge based his denial of the motion for stay on four grounds:
- The state had not shown it was likely to win an appeal of the decision
- There would be no harm to the state in allowing same-sex couples to marry
- Harm could occur to same-sex couples being denied the right to marry
- Any public interest in preserving the democratic process that had occurred in Utah was outweighed by the interest of preserving the constitutional rights of its citizens
The state appealed to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals on the two rulings: One, to override Shelby and issue an emergency stay stopping same-sex marriages and to issue a temporary stay until the state’s appeals could be heard, and two, on the case decision itself.
On Tuesday, the Tenth Circuit upheld Shelby’s ruling denying the stay and ordered consideration of the state’s appeal on the case as a whole be expedited.
“We are disappointed in the decision by the 10th Circuit to deny a stay,” the attorney general’s office said in a statement released Tuesday night. “We plan to appeal the denial to the Supreme Court on Thursday morning.”
Since Friday, over 700 same-sex marriages have been conducted across Utah, and for now will continue unhindered.
St. George News Editor-in-Chief Joyce Kuzmanic contributed to this report.
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