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. skarphace

    I find it ironic that many who are in straight marriages oppose gay marriage on religious grounds and yet the rate of straight divorce is roughly twice that of gay divorce.

    January 6, 2014 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  2. skarphace

    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.
    -

    Well, I don't want your religion forced on my children in school material, so can you please remove any references to your "God" from all matters related to public school? Thanks.

    January 6, 2014 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  3. Chipndale

    Constitution trumps religion.

    January 6, 2014 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  4. PDXDave

    The SCOTUS' action this morning is a well-planned means to ensure SSM becomes the law of the United States rather than a state issue, similar to federal ruling on civil rights, interracial marriage, etc. The Denver court will most likely allow the lower courts' decision to stand. The State of Utah will appeal to the SCOTUS, who will decline to take on the case – thus deciding from that point on that SSM will be a constitutional guarantee in all states, not just the ones where the voters have "approved" it. I think this is very smart, very decisive forward thinking on the part of the justices of the SCOTUS.

    January 6, 2014 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  5. Sniffit

    "ok, so what gives our government or courts the right to suddenly change the meaning of the word?"

    Newsflash: words can have more than one meaning.

    January 6, 2014 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  6. The Real Tom Paine

    -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".

    *******************
    What does universal background checks have to do with this particular subject? If anything, you should be embarrassed by Smitty's attempt to throw a wrench into this discussion. Laws are a study in nuances, which is presumably why the conservatives and libertarians have difficulty with understanding them and grasping them.

    January 6, 2014 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  7. mdaneker

    I love that people say a judge can't rule that a law violates constitutional rights ... that's exactly what a judge does!!! We are not a strict "majority rule" country, we have a three-branch government and the judicial does, amongst other things rule on the validity of laws. The supreme court, imho, should not have intervened, they should have left it alone to go through normal procedure and if needed, heard the case fully at a latter date after the lower courts all weighed in.

    January 6, 2014 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  8. Rudy NYC

    Fair is Fair wrote:

    @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".
    =======================================
    REACTION: The question was a deliberate change of subject to an irrelevant topic. The bait and switch was properly ignored.

    January 6, 2014 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  9. skarphace

    anonymous

    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?

    ----

    Wrong. Before DOMA, marriage was defined as being between two consenting adults, not between a man and a woman. And if you want to get technical, while you are correct that marriage was originally (and still is, in the US) a civil contract, not a religious contract, you are wrong about it's original definition. The original intention of marriage was the ownership of a woman by a man. By marrying a woman, the man would own the woman as he would a slave. Clearly, we do not want to go back to that now, do we?

    January 6, 2014 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  10. postedbygeorge

    a gay guy, no wife, no girlfriend, no children, only drinks wine with guys, sure sounds like a guy that christians follow. Christians stop hating your happy god.

    January 6, 2014 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  11. AnonCA

    When Utah allowed same-sex marriage, I was excited that the state was actually encouraging a monogamous-type relationship between any two people who are in love. All this does, by taking it back, is say you're better off being promiscuous and don't even try to lead a normal monogamous life because, in the end, you don't get that right. What a disappointment.

    January 6, 2014 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  12. tom l

    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".

    =======

    It's so funny because for months all the liberals on here have been talking about is majority rules; especially when it came to the filibuster. Now? Not so much.

    January 6, 2014 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  13. skarphace

    Polar Bear

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

    ---

    You can believe whatever you want to believe. What you cannot do is pass public laws based on your belief.

    January 6, 2014 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  14. areyoumymoms

    @jonjon

    Newsflash: gay people have kids, and plenty of straight people don't. Our son is only 16 months old, but we are already preparing him for college and future employment. What a silly thing to say...

    Also, if the decision was truly rooted in economics, then how can we ignore the $259M that NY brought in during the first year of legal gay marriage? Or the Fortune companies like Apple, Goldman Sachs, Nike, and 50+ others who submitted an amicus brief to SCOTUS in February 2013, stating that continuing to keep gay marriage illegal prevents them from recruiting and hiring top applicants due to benefit and visa restrictions? Legalizing that which some feel is morally wrong but a large population of the country supports will have a huge (and positive) impact on our economy.

    January 6, 2014 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  15. sadlyperturbed

    The very same people who are fighting for less government intrusion into their lives are fighting for more government intrusion into the lives of everyone else. Hypocrisy is alive and well here in the US.

    January 6, 2014 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  16. ram sham

    The question to ask yourself is simple and clear. Can two negatives alone and/or two positive alone can produce a natural offspring (child). This is the only facts that should determined what is marriage. Marriage was started to initiate the bringing of more off-springs (children) into this world with mutual agreement indulgence. Civil Union and Common Law rules should be applied to same sex partnership and should be give the same rights as a marriage of a man and woman BUT not the sacred word of MARRIAGE.

    There should be a law for term limits for the Supreme Court Judges.

    These days Hollywood and the Newscast owners are dictating what Democracy is. They are the minority. Wake up people and protests against these ???????.

    January 6, 2014 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  17. skarphace

    CaptainObvious

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

    ----

    Not as long as marriage is a civil contract. If so, then such differentiation should be based on religion, and Atheists and other non-Christians would be differentiated before gays who are Christian.

    January 6, 2014 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  18. Robert

    As I understand your Constitution, does banning same sex marriage violate the 14th Amendment? If it does, SSM like interracial marriage should be legal in the entire US.

    January 6, 2014 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  19. cecelia

    Finally! Someone fears God.

    Even if straight marriages fail it still doesn't mean gay marriages are right. Psalm 9:17
    The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.

    January 6, 2014 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  20. tom l

    @Rudy
    "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."

    =======

    Ummm. The govt is absolutely dictating to houses of worship just how to define marriage. We are all just waiting for that first lawsuit to hit a church for not conducting a marriage between 2 men or 2 women.

    The bottom line is that govt shouldn't even be in the marriage business to begin with. As well you know, I have no problem with gay marriage but don't fool yourself into thinking the govt isn't dictating to religions how to practice because they most certainly are.

    January 6, 2014 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  21. skarphace

    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.

    ----

    There is a scientifically sound reason why people who are related by blood should not reproduce with each other. There is no single scientifically sound reason why gay couples should not be able to get the same exact civil contract that straight couples should.

    January 6, 2014 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  22. The Taxman

    Hey, if you don't like the laws of one state you can move. Massachusetts allows it. But if you choose to remain in Utah you need to respect its laws passed by a grand majority of its voters. And the law is not freedom FROM religion but freedom OF religion. We can all practice our religions or none but the government cannot create its own religion.

    January 6, 2014 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  23. skarphace

    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 Consti tution.

    ----

    There is a scientifically sound reason why people who are related by blood should not reproduce with each other. There is no single scientifically sound reason why gay couples should not be able to get the same exact civil contract that straight couples should.

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

    @Cecelia - the decision is out of respect to those with beliefs such as yours; not because of a fairy tale sky-daddy.

    January 6, 2014 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  25. Carol

    A state that passes Pot law, but not a marriage law for all couples? Strange state.

    January 6, 2014 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
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