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. Mary

    Our constitution guarantees equal rights for everyone. If heterosexuals can marry without the necessity of passing laws to make it possible, then gays and lesbians should have those same rights. Civil liberties should not be subject to popular vote...they either exist or they don't...and passing laws that restrict the rights of a segment of our citizenry afforded to others segments of our citizenry should always be considered unconstitutional.

    January 6, 2014 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  2. life5678

    'Marriage' laws in general need a complete overhaul. The 'State' should only recognize civil contracts, which must include clauses for children, support, and possessions. Marriage should be left as a religious ceremony performed in churches that has nothing to do with Secular laws.

    January 6, 2014 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  3. Sniffit

    Teatroll Rosetta Stone says: "We wants it, we needs it. Must have the marriage. They stole it from us. Sneaky little f-otses. Wicked, tricksy, false! "

    January 6, 2014 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  4. skarphace

    Frank

    It promotes perverted intercourse on a "civilized" society. That's why 90% of the population of the world disagree with it!

    ---

    I don't know where you get your statistics, but the majority of people in the US support the legalization of gay marriage.

    "Gallup Gay Marriage Poll Finds Majority Of U.S. Citizens Would Support Nationwide Marriage Equality Law." Source: Huffington Post.

    January 6, 2014 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  5. Old_Hippie

    States should just issue a legal contract that establishes a legal union between two consenting adults. It would be that contract that would need to be litigated in the case of seperation and/or divorce. Then the churches could issue their own Certificate of Holy Matrimony to whomever they choose. This needs to be resolved quickly and it really should not take all that much time.

    January 6, 2014 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  6. tom l

    @Sniffit
    ""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."

    No the gov't is quite literally not mandating that religious institutions perform marriage ceremonies for gay couples. It is determining which private contracts it will recognize legally for the purposes of taxes, inheritance, parental rights for adopted children and for children they have themselves (e.g., via a surrogate), spousal rights (such as hospital visitation or things like the spousal election with respect to a will), etc. You can keep waiting and waiting and waiting for your imagined horrible to come along, and we can all have a good laugh when that suit finally gets filed and gets thrown out, because there isn't a court in the country, liberal or not, that is ever going to rule that the gov't can demand that a religious institution perform its ceremonies in a particular manner. EVER. That's a very VERY false fear you're selling and everyone but the hysterical religio-fascists who oppose gay marriage recognizes that fact."

    =======

    A happy new year to you. I think you are 100% incorrect. There is no way that people aren't going to say that since they are tax exempt they must follow the laws. They will be sued for discrimination. You know that will happen. And there is no way that the suit would be thrown out. Not a chance.

    January 6, 2014 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  7. rs

    Tom I
    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.
    ___________________________________
    Okay, so you firmly established your belief that your employer can set your religious beliefs last week. If now you are saying that you are unable to discern the difference between legislative parliamentary procedure and the initiative process- well, that sort of speaks for itself.
    How do you feel about your precious Right-wing legislators buying off-the-shelf nutty legislation from hate groups and ALEC? Think that stuff should pass constitutional muster?

    January 6, 2014 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  8. Bhawk1

    Since when does one need a religion to get permission to marry. Marriage License is issued by a government not a religion. No religion has to accept the marriage only governments and as far as I know Utah is not a theocracy, this country is not a theocracy despite the attempts to make it so. So much for equal rights under the law in Utah. Church law trumps the Constitution.

    January 6, 2014 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  9. drefromla

    what a joke. amazing that the people who claim to do this in the name of religion have no concept of the irony... or the hypocrisy.
    curious how the governor of utah would feel if they passed a law that prevented politicians from getting married. I mean after all, who is more foul than a politician?

    January 6, 2014 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  10. Steve

    Sad that our Supreme Court is ruling in favor of discrimination. We as a nation are on equal footing with other less advanced nations who continue to hold similar views which are discriminatory in nature. Sad.

    January 6, 2014 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  11. DJL

    rbnlegend said: "I am still waiting for someone to bring a suit saying that a catholic church has to perform a wedding for a non-catholic couple. I've been waiting a long time, but, I'm sure that it will happen real soon now. Fact is, there is a long established history of churches being able to decide who they marry..."

    The "long established history" is called the First Amendment. The government cannot force a church to marry anyone, so you will never see such a lawsuit.

    January 6, 2014 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  12. Mike Teall

    The Catholic Church wiill never marry a gay couple. That would be a sacriledge. The Sacrament of marriage is between God , a man and a woman. It would destroy the church but that;s what the LGBO community wants anyways and the left wing. To force their ideologies on others even though they don't support it.

    January 6, 2014 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  13. Silence DoGood

    @life5678
    'Marriage' laws in general need a complete overhaul. The 'State' should only recognize civil contracts, which must include clauses for children, support, and possessions. Marriage should be left as a religious ceremony performed in churches that has nothing to do with Secular laws.
    ---------–
    Brilliant – if politics were so simple. The difference is the Radical Christian Right wants an elevated status for their ceremony, recognized by the Government (remember DOMA?). If they could they would relegate not only gay marriage, but Buddhist marriage, Muslim marriage, liberal Christian marriage to a lesser status.

    January 6, 2014 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  14. DeeBee

    Old_Hippie

    States should just issue a legal contract that establishes a legal union between two consenting adults. It would be that contract that would need to be litigated in the case of seperation and/or divorce. Then the churches could issue their own Certificate of Holy Matrimony to whomever they choose. This needs to be resolved quickly and it really should not take all that much time.

    I essence, that is exactly what happens. Even in states that do not allow same-sex marriage, there is a recognition between the legal document (the marriage license – which is necessary and sufficient for a marriage to be valid) and the religious ceremony (which is not necessary, although states generally allow members of the clergy to sign the document, but do not require it). So the question is then why not call all state unions "civil unions" and reserve the term "marriage" for religious/personal matters? If we had started out that way, that would be fine, but to go a couple of centuries calling a civil contract a marriage and then changing it to allow for same-sex marriage smacks of homophobia.

    January 6, 2014 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  15. Mike Teall

    We live in a democracy the people of UTAH should vote as to what they want. Not be forced by a supreme court. This is how civil wars start.

    January 6, 2014 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  16. skarphace

    What's Next?

    If homose xuality is a natural se xual orientation and proclivity, where is the line for other proclivities and desires? Ped ophiles, nec rophiliacs and beas tiality folks will all tell you that THEY were born that way, too. So, are they to be given the same "rights" and acceptance?

    ----

    Aaaaah. The "slippery slope" argument. Not very original. Here is the case, laws prohibiting ped ophilia, necr ophilia, and beast iality protect the majority form the minority. This is why they are ruled consti tutional. Explain to me exactly how laws prohibiting gay marriage protect straight couples and you may have a point.

    January 6, 2014 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  17. DeeBee

    As to the matter decided by the Supreme Court, I am an ardent supporter of same-sex marriage but I still think the Court did the right thing as a matter of law. The appellate process is important in our legal system and, in general, lower court rulings should await completion of the appellate process, including time to allow parties to decide on their legal course of actions, before being implemented.

    January 6, 2014 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  18. Thomas E

    The government has no right in a religious ceremony. Marriage is a RELIGOUS concept. However, the government can issue civil licenses for unions for tax purposes.

    January 6, 2014 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  19. Tipper

    The Moral outcome is simple – Marriage is between a man and a woman! Two men cannot make a baby, two women can not make a baby! if you cannot figure that out – you need to return to first grade!!

    January 6, 2014 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  20. skarphace

    Mike Teall

    The Catholic Church wiill never marry a gay couple. That would be a sacriledge. The Sacrament of marriage is between God , a man and a woman. It would destroy the church but that;s what the LGBO community wants anyways and the left wing. To force their ideologies on others even though they don't support it.

    ----

    That is perfectly fine. To strike down a law prohibiting gay marriage in no way forces any particular church to marry gay couples. In fact, the opposite is true. A law prohibiting gay marriage forces a church to only marry straight couples. If a church decides that it is ok to marry gay couples, then why should our state or federal governments say otherwise? The truth is that laws prohibiting gay marriage fly in the face of "separation of church and state", even though supporters would argue otherwise.

    January 6, 2014 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  21. Silence DoGood

    “I am for freedom of religion and against all maneuvers to bring about a legal ascendancy of one sect over another.”
    ~Thomas Jefferson, letter to Elbridge Gerry, January 26, 1799

    I know Freedom can be scary – all different people believing all different things. Let us be watchful of this Christian Theocracy "ascendancy".

    January 6, 2014 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  22. skarphace

    Mike Teall

    We live in a democracy the people of UTAH should vote as to what they want. Not be forced by a supreme court. This is how civil wars start.

    ----

    Again, you have it backwards. Laws prohibiting gay marriage amount to the federal government telling the churches who they can or cannot marry, not the other way around. If you want "freedom of religion", then you should not support laws prohibiting gay marriage. Individual churches should decide for themselves who they perform the ceremony for and the civil contract should be defined by civil law, which means based on the Consti tution.

    January 6, 2014 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  23. DeeBee

    @skarphace

    Mike Teall

    The Catholic Church wiill never marry a gay couple. That would be a sacriledge. The Sacrament of marriage is between God , a man and a woman. It would destroy the church but that;s what the LGBO community wants anyways and the left wing. To force their ideologies on others even though they don't support it.

    --

    That is perfectly fine. To strike down a law prohibiting gay marriage in no way forces any particular church to marry gay couples. In fact, the opposite is true. A law prohibiting gay marriage forces a church to only marry straight couples. If a church decides that it is ok to marry gay couples, then why should our state or federal governments say otherwise? The truth is that laws prohibiting gay marriage fly in the face of "separation of church and state", even though supporters would argue otherwise.

    ----------------–

    Add to that the fact that the Catholic Church doesn't recognize all sorts of marriages, including marriages between divorced persons. But the state does allow those marriages. I have never heard of the state forcing the Church to recognize such marriages, nor have I heard of the Church in recent centuries objecting to the state recognition of such marriages.

    January 6, 2014 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  24. Sniffit

    " Ped ophiles, nec rophiliacs and beas tiality folks will all tell you that THEY were born that way, too. So, are they to be given the same "rights" and acceptance?"

    Well, since none of them are entering into a contract with a party that is legally capable of consent, then no, your fears are unfounded and you're not going to have to worry about how people marrying corpses and getting tax benefits for it effects your straight marriage. Any time you guys want to start talking sense, you just let the rest of us know, mmmkay?

    January 6, 2014 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  25. skarphace

    Mike Teall

    We live in a democracy the people of UTAH should vote as to what they want. Not be forced by a supreme court. This is how civil wars start.

    ----

    We live in a Democratic Republic, not a pure Democracy, and you are right. That is exactly how the Civil War started: the majority trying to restrict the rights of minorities when those rights no way impeded the rights of the majority. If we were a pure Democracy, then slavery would still be legal in certain states. This is clearly not the case.

    January 6, 2014 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
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