January 6th, 2014
10:38 AM ET
10 months ago

Supreme Court puts hold on same-sex marriages in Utah

Updated 4:37 p.m. ET, 1/6/2014

(CNN) – The Supreme Court on Monday temporarily blocked same-sex marriage in Utah, an apparently unanimous order in favor of the state that sends the matter back to an appeals court for expedited consideration.

The case could have sweeping national implications, depending on how the federal appeals panel rules on a challenge to the state's same-sex marriage ban and whether the case returns to the high court.

Utah asked the Supreme Court to intervene last week after 10th Circuit Court of Appeals declined to stay a lower court ruling in December striking down Utah's voter-approved prohibition of legal wedlock for gays and lesbians.

Hundreds of people sought marriage licenses following U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby's ruling that said the restriction, approved in 2004, conflicted with the constitutional guarantees of equal protection and due process.

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor received the Utah petition and then asked her colleagues to weigh in.

The court followed up with a two-sentence order without comment that puts same-sex marriages on hold in Utah only.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said the Supreme Court made the "correct" decision to stay Shelby's ruling.

"As I have said all along, all Utahns deserve to have this issue resolved through a fair and complete judicial process. I firmly believe this is a state-rights issue and I will work to defend the position of the people of Utah and our State Constitution," he said in a statement.

One question arising from the Supreme Court ruling is the status of those who received marriage licenses after Shelby's ruling. The Utah Attorney General's office put the figure at around 950, but it was not clear how many people actually wed.

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes gave no indication on Monday whether the state would try to challenge the validity of those unions.

"There is not clear legal precedence for this particular situation. This is the uncertainty that we were trying to avoid by asking the district court for a stay immediately after its decision. It is very unfortunate that so many Utah citizens have been put into this legal limbo," Reyes said in a statement.

The appeals panel in Denver is expected to consider the case again in coming weeks more thoroughly. A ruling there could affect all states within the court's jurisdiction: Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Kansas.

More recently, same-sex marriage legal battles have become prominent in states where it is prohibited. But the Utah case is a broad challenge that goes to the heart of constitutional law as it applies to the state ban and could wind up back at the Supreme Court. Same-sex couples say laws like Utah's violate their equal protection and due process rights.

"It could be the challenge that a lot of people have been waiting for, which is does the United States Constitution guarantee a right to marriage for everyone," said CNN Senior Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin. "That's the issue in this case and it's now working its way through the courts. It could take quite some time."

The Supreme Court ruled more narrowly this past summer on separate issues involving same-sex marriage.

It cleared the way for those unions in California to resume and rejected parts of a federal law, concluding same-sex spouses legally married in a state may receive federal benefits.

Most states still ban the practice, but polls show more support for it publicly.

Same-sex advocates look to Shelby's arguments to sway the appeals panel.

"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," Joshua Block, attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement.

The lawsuit considered by Shelby was brought by one gay and two lesbian couples in Utah who wish to marry but have been unable to do so because of the state ban.

Same-sex marriage is banned by constitutional amendment or state law in: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

It is legal in 17 other U.S states and the District of Columbia: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

The case is Herbert v. Kitchen (13A687)


Filed under: Same-sex marriage • Supreme Court • Utah
soundoff (569 Responses)
  1. Reality

    Utah is on the wrong side of civil rights yet again.
    Reluctant to give rights to Blacks.
    Reluctant to give rights to women.
    Reluctant to give rights to homosexuals.
    Utah is becoming more of a joke everyday. The civilized world becomes more civilized, while men in Utah wear magic underpants while fighting to suppress the civil rights of others… no punchline needed, Utah is a joke by its own nature.

    January 6, 2014 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  2. mitchyj

    Heterosexuals in Utah can have five wives. But gays can't have even one. What a moronic state.

    January 6, 2014 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  3. talbet

    Classic example of Republicans wasting taxpayer money for no reason. The Supreme Court has already ruled on this. We know how it's going to end.

    January 6, 2014 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  4. johnny know

    Technically the appeal court can kick this up to SUPREME Court backed by Mormons & the supreme's can go back and change the LAW VOIDING ALL GAY MARRIAGE in all states in USA.

    This is another PROP 8 by the backdoor .

    January 6, 2014 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  5. Moderate Sean

    Fair is Fair – The state's request to the Supreme Court was filed with Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who handles emergency appeals from Utah and the five other states in the 10th Circuit. Sotomayor turned the matter over to the entire court."
    --
    You don't like it? Take it up with Sotomayor. It was within her power to make the decision, and she punted.

    **************************************************************************************************************************

    Fair is Fair – Let's try and act as your name articulates – "FAIR". Yes, each Justice is responsible for a certain Federal Circuit to receive and/or rule on emergency appeals, but when the issue is extremely sensitive, or will have great ramifications on society, the general norm/procedure is not for that one Justice to unilaterally rule, but rather to turn it over to the entire court for an initial opinion on the emergency appeal versus "punt[-ing]" it as you so inaccurately opined! Stay to the facts and not your biased one-sided opinion. Remember that saying, you are entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts! Thanks for playing.

    January 6, 2014 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  6. Econ301

    It's interesting the people celebrating this ruling as if it validates the Anti-Gay Marriage law.

    All this does is grant a stay until the issue can be settled in the courts.

    January 6, 2014 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  7. Stacy

    I am so disappointed in my state. I used to be LDS and got educated- I have tried to live and let live – bu the LDS religion will not stay out of politics and they scream persecution at any given chance. The same thing is going to happen with equal rights that happend in 1978 with African Americans getting the priesthood- once the financial burden is to much then the LDS leaders will change their story and tell lies like- "we never taught that"

    January 6, 2014 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  8. johnny know

    Technically the appeal court can kick this up to supreme court backed by M's & the supreme's can go back and change the LAW VOIDING ALL GAY MARRIAGE in all states in USA.

    January 6, 2014 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  9. mitchyj

    Apparently the village idiot takes up an entire state. Utah, you should be ashamed of yourself.

    January 6, 2014 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  10. JAB

    Once again people are fighting for rights denied them by people who believe their religion should be used as the basis for the law of the land. Your religion should have nothing to do with my rights. Period.

    January 6, 2014 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  11. mitchyj

    I've been saying this for awhile. Let Utah become its own country. What do they contribute to the U.S. anyway. Snow?

    January 6, 2014 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  12. cruz

    Everyone in here who is saying that "the voters made it so, they must always be right". Voters do not get to trump the constitution. Meaning that these laws are unconstitutional. In the exact same way that voters used to want blacks to be seperate from whites. These days, we'd say that is horrible and wrong and racist. And these people are unable to see that this is the exact same thing happening now. A group of people, a minority, want equal rights to everyone else. And the BIGOTed people in Utah (a very religious state) do not want equal rights. It's as simple as that. They voted for a law that is unconstitutional. And courts have every right to overturn laws that are unconstitutional.

    People who are against gay marriage, I will never understand your stance. You have never been able to present a reasonable, logical reason for why gay marriage should be illegal. The answers usually are "It's wrong, god says so". This answer is religious, and should have no bearing on laws. "If gays can marry, people should be able to marry their dog too". Really? I'm not even going to say anything about this other than you are comparing gays to dogs, and that say s something about yourself, and you should just go, and stay go. And it once again comes back to "my religion and personal beliiefs are inconsistent with this. Therefor I must tell others what to do, and make it illegal because I don't like it".

    Let's be honest here. You are trying to tell other people they are not allowed to marry. Because YOU. DONT. LIKE. IT. How does it affect YOU personally? IT DOES NOT. There is NO good reason for it, other than because you want to force your own beliefs down everyone elses throat. And no, gays are NOT doing that. They simply want to be treated the same as everyone else. YOU want them to be treated like dogs.

    It disgusts me.

    January 6, 2014 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  13. CosmicC

    Yes, by all means, leave it up to voters in States. It's not like they'd approve of something like slavery, segregation, or disenfranchisment of voters based on race, religion, politics, or sex (sarcasm).

    January 6, 2014 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  14. dc777

    "And each one is an affront... to the interests of the states and its citizens in being able to define marriage through ordinary democratic channels."
    Now rewrite it substituting "civil rights" for "marriage": " And each one is an affront... to the interests of the states and its citizens in being able to define CIVIL RIGHTS" through ordinary democratic channels."
    These are the same people who would put voting rights, women's rights, the rights of the disabled, etc.,., to the test of the ballot box. If we relied on the power of the majority to protect the rights of minorities, we all know how things would look south of the Mason-Dixon line. (The fact that Utah is calling this is "states rights" issue, is a creepy reminder)

    January 6, 2014 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  15. ThinkAgain - If you want Congress to actually do something FOR the American people, vote out the Repub/tea bag majority

    @What about the rest: "@THINKAGAIN Murder is a religious based wrong doing, should murder be lawful?"

    Murder is a civil offense; the argument made by so-called "pro-life" people (who, BTW, believe that a woman should die if the only way to save her life is to abort the fetus) has to do with when life begins. A fetus is no viable outside the womb until at least 24 weeks; in my opinion, abortion prior to that – along with pregnancy that results from rape or incest, or when the woman's life is in danger – should be allowed.

    I am speaking as a woman with three children, including twins who were conceived using in vitro fertilization – on the third try; I also experienced two miscarriages between our first son and the twins. I mention this because I'm tired of RWNJs trying to lecture those of us who are pro-choice on the sanctity of life.

    January 6, 2014 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  16. afsinclair

    Individual rights are not subject to a public vote; a majority has no right to vote away the rights of a minority; the political function of rights is precisely to protect minorities from oppression by majorities (and the smallest minority on earth is the individual).

    January 6, 2014 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  17. johnny know

    Evander Holyfield Anti-Gay Remark Slammed last night
    The former champion boxer sparks anger after comparing being homosexual to having a disability that can be "fixed" by a doctor.

    January 6, 2014 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  18. Keep Fear ALive

    why .... why ... why..... are conservatives ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS on the Wrong side of history ... there's is always a world of ... NO! ..Not Allowed !! Can't do That! ... only I have that right, but not YOU !!! this seems to be the every sung note by the GOP ... to prevent people from doing what you, YOURSELVES like to engage in ... whether its the military or Marriage ... teaching or the workforce ... we can ALWAYS count on the GOP to make their voices known based on who they feel doesn't get included int eh american experience ...

    January 6, 2014 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  19. Whatever1784

    Some have to be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century.

    January 6, 2014 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  20. johnny know

    Evander Holyfield Anti-Gay Remark Slammed last night in UK
    The former champion boxer sparks anger after comparing being homosexual to having a disability that can be "fixed" by a doctor.

    January 6, 2014 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  21. ThinkAgain - If you want Congress to actually do something FOR the American people, vote out the Repub/tea bag majority

    @AngryPetRock: "@ThinkAgain: Thats a terribly flawed line of logic. A voter does not need to concede his/her vote because he/she is religious. To undermine the opinion of the voter is unconstitutional."

    It's unconstitutional to make people conform to the religious beliefs of others. No one is making you marry gay.

    January 6, 2014 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  22. Sniffit

    "Marriage is between a man and a women, civil unions are just that, a union between others, but not marriage. "

    You have two options if you wish to push that thinking. Either:

    1. "Marriage" is a religiously defined institution that has zero place in our laws whatsoever and the word should be scrubbed from all legislation, acts, bills, laws, etc., such that every single one of them no longer refers in any way, shape or form to "marriage." Thus, every law will henceforth refer to "civil unions" or some other entirely secular phraseology entirely devoid of religious connotation.

    2. Accept that "marriage" as used in our laws, bills, legislation, etc., is in fact nothing more than a reference to the legal manifestation of a couple's union, i.e., the government recognizing a private contract between two people which, regardless of whether they formalized it in a church or other religious ceremony, has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with religion because that legal and governmental recognition cannot, because of the 1st Amendment, have any religious connotation. In other words, "marriage" when used on our laws cannot be read to refer to anything religious at all.

    Personally, I prefer option one. Scrub the word "marriage" in all its forms from all of our laws...everyone gets a "civil union" or "partnership contract" no matter what they did to arrive at it...and teach the religious nuts that when the law recognizes their "marriage," it is doing something that is solely and entirely of a secular, legal nature. They'll howl about it for sure, because what's really motivating them is the desire to cling to some sort of governmentally institutionalized codification of their self-declared moral and religious superiority. Even the semblance of that codification needs to end because they truly have none of the superiority they so desperately think they do.

    January 6, 2014 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  23. Patrick H

    The people have a right to vote for the laws in their state, but not when the decision infringes upon the rights of others. Granting numerous tax benefits and incentives to once class of citizens and not the other is clear discrimination. Judge Shelby was in the right to overturn the state's decision as his actions furthered civil rights for all people.

    And furthermore, gays are not 'pushing' their lifestyle or agenda anymore than any other group is. When people are denied basic civil rights it will be in the news and out in the streets. This is politics. It was the same when African Americans fought for civil rights or women fought for the right to vote. Change requires visibility and discussion. Get over it.

    January 6, 2014 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  24. Todd

    Everybody should be treated equal based on their race, religion, sexuality, etc. If two gay people who love each other want to get married then they should be allowed to.

    January 6, 2014 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  25. Fair is Fair

    johnny know

    Technically the appeal court can kick this up to supreme court backed by M's & the supreme's can go back and change the LAW VOIDING ALL GAY MARRIAGE in all states in USA.
    ------
    Ummmmmmm... nope.

    January 6, 2014 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
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