January 6th, 2014
10:38 AM ET
9 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. Jarsbait

    No state can legislate what is against the fundamental rights in the constitution. I've seen no rational argument why gays should not have the right to marriage on constitutional grounds, which is why opponents want to fight the battle on emotional (read FEAR) and religious (read bigoted) grounds at the ballot box.

    January 6, 2014 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  2. Rudy NYC

    Earle wrote:

    Civil unions I feel are ok, marriage, sorry but not ok... Well, well, where do they go from here? We will have to wait on Denver to find out whats next...
    -------------------------
    Sorry, Earle. The concept of "separate but equal" was ruled unconstitutional by the SCOTUS some 60 years ago.

    ==========================================================================

    smith

    @Rudy- So you say its wrong for the majority to dictate rights to the minority? So now you think universal backgrounds checks are wrong? Can`t have it both ways.
    -------------------------
    TRANSLATION: "I believe that the Bill of Rights begins with the 2nd Amendment."

    January 6, 2014 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  3. AR

    i still want to know how gay marriage affects straight people?

    oh right, it doesn't.

    January 6, 2014 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  4. John

    The Mormon Mafia. Enough with States deciding who should have the right to marry already. I should be legalized in all 50 states. Those who are opposed to gay marriage should just marry someone of the opposite sex. Everyone should have the exact same rights if they pay the exact same taxes and non-felons no matter what someone else beleives religiously. Is this America or what???

    January 6, 2014 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  5. anonymous

    Sniffit
    --
    "So did marriages, and the holy sacrament of marriage exist prior to the forming of this country and its government?"
    --
    They existed before Christ, before Christianity, before the Catholic Church and all of its ridiculous Platonisms and fruity ceremonial pomp, etc. Altruistic partnership for mutual benefit, enjoyment and survival existed well before organized religion, champ, so get a clue.
    --

    ok, so what gives our government or courts the right to suddenly change the meaning of the word? marriage has been defined to be between a man and a woman for thousands and thousands of years. do you have historical proof of gay marriages before the courts suddenly found something that billions of people hadn't seen or thought existed for many thousands of years?

    January 6, 2014 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  6. tc

    They were just feeling sorry for that morman dude and wanted to get him a burger

    January 6, 2014 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  7. I AM

    The Gay Mormon Association is going to be real upset about this.

    January 6, 2014 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  8. MoveForward

    Homophobia is alive and well in Utah.

    January 6, 2014 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  9. anonymous

    AR
    i still want to know how gay marriage affects straight people?
    oh right, it doesn't.
    --

    i don't want gay marriage being forced on my children in school material.

    January 6, 2014 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  10. Sniffit

    ""each one is an affront... to the interests of the states and its citizens in being able to define marriage through ordinary democratic channels""

    Teatroll Rosetta Stone says: "If we hates 'em, we should be able to vote on oppressin' 'em!!!! Hey Maw, pass me that there moonshine!!!!!"

    January 6, 2014 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  11. Rudy NYC

    anonymous

    this is nothing more than government dictating to religions what the new definition of marriage is. what next? a total rewrite of the ten commandments to suit politcal needs? instead of thous shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, will we be forced to say thou shalt not covert they neighbor's wife or same sex partner?
    -------------------------
    You'g got it completely backwards. The government is not dictating to religions about how to conduct themselves. Most same-sex marriages are conducted by a government official. This is all about people feeling that their chosen religion should be able to dictate to the government about how to conduct its' business.

    I suggest that you read the 1st Amendment. That part where it says "establishment of religion" does not mean the founding of religion, nor the creation of a new one. I've heard that gross misinterpretation repeated on these blogs many times. The phrase "establishment of religion" means "house of worship."

    January 6, 2014 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  12. ok66

    This is dumb as usual. Why do people care what other people do. Its not your life so who cares. And if you Mormons and Christians say that there sinning and are gonna go to hell then let God punish them. Why do people have to create unnecessary hate in the world.

    January 6, 2014 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  13. Polar Bear

    Good. Tired of 3% of the population trying to force us to believe what they believe.

    January 6, 2014 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  14. Fair is Fair

    Rudy NYC

    smith

    @Rudy- So you say its wrong for the majority to dictate rights to the minority? So now you think universal backgrounds checks are wrong? Can`t have it both ways.
    ---------
    TRANSLATION: "I believe that the Bill of Rights begins with the 2nd Amendment."
    -------
    TRANSLATION: "I can't answer the question so I'll throw out a democratic talking point".

    January 6, 2014 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  15. CaptainObvious

    There is clearly a rational basis for differentiation, even if that differentiation is mere semantic.

    January 6, 2014 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  16. Avis

    When some consenting, nonbiologically-related adult couples are granted the numerous rights and benefits that come with marriage while other consenting nonbiologically-related adult couples are arbitrarily denied those exact same rights and benefits, it is a violations of the due process and equal protection clauses of the Constitution.

    January 6, 2014 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  17. Assisi

    There is a big difference (to many people) between civil unions and marriage. Leaving the civil portion in the hands of state and federal government(s) is probably where it belongs, granted there will still be those who disagree with same-sex unions of any type. However it is senseless to try and argue that "marriage" has EVER been anything other than a heterosexual and largely spiritual union recognized by religious and/or spiritual authority. Marriage, as a definition, should not be seen as something which can be altered. Along the same lines my personal feeling is that heterosexual partners, who view their "union" as something outside of the confines of a faith-based oath or system, should acknowledge that "marriage" is perhaps the incorrect term to apply to their relationship as well.

    January 6, 2014 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  18. Rudy NYC

    anonymous wrote:

    ok, so what gives our government or courts the right to suddenly change the meaning of the word? marriage has been defined to be between a man and a woman for thousands and thousands of years. do you have historical proof of gay marriages before the courts suddenly found something that billions of people hadn't seen or thought existed for many thousands of years?
    ------------------
    What gives you the gall to think that you have a right to define "marriage" to be strictly according to what you feel to be your religion's definitions? I thought you believed in the *whole* Constitution, and not just the parts that you like. BTW, I will answer your parting question with a question of my own. "How many wives, had Pharoah?"

    January 6, 2014 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  19. skarphace

    Sorry to say, but marriage is not a religious contract. It is a civil contract. If marriage were a religious contract, then Atheists would not be allowed to marry and divorces would be illegal. Therefore, saying that we should decide who should get married based on the words in a religious text makes no sense.

    If you want marriage to be a religious contract, then fine. Make it so that there are no federal benefits (tax or death) based on marriage and make divorce illegal. However, you will still have to deal with liberal churches who interpret the Bible differently than more conservative churches, and the fight will continue. Those opposed to gay marriage lose in the long run either way. Eventually, the right of gays to get married will be considered fundamental.

    January 6, 2014 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  20. t

    ...as More and More GOP types line up in OPPOSITION OF A FREEDOM that does NOT negatively affect THEM......
    .
    ...............they reinforce the broad understanding that the GOP is ALWAYS on the WRONG SIDE OF HISTORY.....

    January 6, 2014 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  21. Silence DoGood

    @anon "ok, so what gives our government or courts the right to suddenly change the meaning of the word?"
    What gives the government the right to define it at all? Gay marriage does not deny the right of man-woman marriage. Leave it alone to individuals to decide.
    "It matters not to me if my neighbor believes in no god, one god, or many gods. It neither picks my pocket nor steals my money." Thomas Jefferson.

    January 6, 2014 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  22. Lawless4U

    So let me get this straight about the moralists in Utah: You can sleep with, rape and marry multiple women and young girls but it is NOT ok for consenting adults of the same sex to enter in a legal proclamation of their love for one another?

    January 6, 2014 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  23. Jack 2

    Good, this legalization and attempted normalization of perversion is a tragedy to our nation made possible by politicians desparate for votes and the gay media's desire to glorify perversion by it's many gays in management.
    Good Americans should stop this farce in it's tracks.

    January 6, 2014 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  24. Nermal

    What's all the anger about: that it was voted down in Utah? That the Supreme Court has put a hold on things? Those that don't agree with your views & have a different opinion? Ding, ding, ding...it's all of the above! We have a winner!

    January 6, 2014 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  25. Peter

    I wonder how the people of Utah would feel about a law saying that Mormons are not permitted to marry.

    January 6, 2014 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
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