January 6th, 2014
10:38 AM ET
3 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. HaroldLewisBlair

    Actually Obama is behind the pushing of gay issues because he is actually gay and has an arranged marriage for political reasons-sounds unbelievable but every word is true- every gay in the world knows Obama is gay but the straigts dont-when Obama was elected- his rich backers spent millions to hide his past history-and many more millions to keep the news of his in-eligibility to be president out of the news-right now in California there is a lawsuit against Obama's invalid SSN that he uses to make out his incometax with-it fails the E-VERIFY program that the government uses to verify SSN's- his real SSN was probably tied into crimes of his youth when he used his real name (Barry Soetoro) Obama uses a SSN of a man who was born in 1890 (Harrison Bounell) just GOOGLE "Mia Marie Pope" to hear one of Obama's old friends talk about his past- (it is shocking)

    January 6, 2014 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  2. Silence DoGood

    "Persecution is not an original feature in any religion; but it is always the strongly marked feature of all religions established by law."
    Thomas Paine 17??

    January 6, 2014 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  3. Sniffit

    "should all marriages performed in places of worship be declared null and void?"

    You can go get all the marriages you want in a church or other religious setting. If you fail to follow the legal prerequisites for the government to recognize your marriage as a valid and binding private contract, i.e., obtaining a marriage license, etc., then the state has absolutely no obligation whatsoever to recognize it. The attempts by the conservative Christian right to turn everything upside down and inside out in order to manufacture broken arguments that they are being persecuted ARE PATENTLY RIDICULOUS.

    January 6, 2014 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  4. skarphace

    Fair is Fair

    "Marriage is defined by law as a civil contract. You may not like this fact, but it is still a fact."
    --
    It is indeed. So in a nation that has a separation of church and state, should all marriages performed in places of worship be declared null and void?

    --–

    No. It should stay as it is, with the marriage contract being issued by the state and the marriage ceremony being performed by religious groups. This way, the government decides who can get married and does not decide who the individual churches can or cannot perform the marriage ceremony for. If a church wants to perform marriage ceremonies for gay couples, then why should the government say otherwise if the two acts are separate? Eventually, churches will have the freedom from government to perform marriage ceremonies for whoever they want, and the government will decide who will get marriage contracts, and therefore the tax and death and spousal benefits, and this will be based on the Consti tution, not the Bible.

    January 6, 2014 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  5. Thomas E

    Thanks for proving me correctly sharkbait. The government cannot define a marriage which is a religous tenament. They can have a civil aspect which in actually is more for tax purposes and/or legal permissions to encourage a unification of family. Which btw can be man/woman and variations therof.

    January 6, 2014 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  6. Hawkeye07

    At last – states have the right to regulate marriage – not the federal government.

    January 6, 2014 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  7. tom l

    Hey Sniffit,
    I just wanted to let you know that someone can oppose gay marriage on not have an ounce of hatred nor a bigoted bone in their body. Children use the term hate. Adults understand that people have differences of opinion. Are there bigots and people that hate gay people who are against gay marriage? Of course. You just eliminate and form of discussion when you throw out those terms. You're better than that.

    January 6, 2014 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  8. tom l

    And I think that moveon must have hired a new comment poster here. Skarphace is all over the board!

    January 6, 2014 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  9. Sniffit

    "Actually Obama is behind the pushing of gay issues because he is actually gay and has an arranged marriage for political reasons-sounds unbelievable but every word is true- every gay in the world knows Obama is gay but the straigts dont-when Obama was elected- his rich backers spent millions to hide his past history-and many more millions to keep the news of his in-eligibility to be president out of the news-right now in California there is a lawsuit against Obama's invalid SSN that he uses to make out his incometax with-it fails the E-VERIFY program that the government uses to verify SSN's- his real SSN was probably tied into crimes of his youth when he used his real name (Barry Soetoro) Obama uses a SSN of a man who was born in 1890 (Harrison Bounell) just GOOGLE "Mia Marie Pope" to hear one of Obama's old friends talk about his past- (it is shocking)"

    I do believe you just filled everybody's daily quote of derp. Truly amazing tinfoil hattery right there.

    January 6, 2014 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  10. Maggie

    As it stands now, marriage is a legal contract between the marrying couple and the state. Religion can be brought into it if the couple wants, but religion is definitely not a requirement to marriage.

    January 6, 2014 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  11. Church of Suicidal

    Marriage Equality. Coming soon to a state near you. Get used to it.

    January 6, 2014 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  12. Rick Patel

    Good news out of Utah!

    January 6, 2014 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  13. skarphace

    Thomas E

    Thanks for proving me correctly sharkbait. The government cannot define a marriage which is a religous tenament

    ----

    Again, you are wrong. Marriage is defined by law and is therefore a civil contract, not a religious one. It is the marriage ceremony which is the religious act, and as such should not be regulated by the state. Therefore, the federal and state governments should not pass any laws restricting churches from performing marriage ceremonies for whoever they please. The federal and state governments should decide who does or does not receive marriage contracts, and this should be based on the Consti tution, rather than a religious text.

    January 6, 2014 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  14. Maggie

    I appear to be unable to reply to anyone's post. Is this a problem for everyone or have I don't something strange to my computer?

    January 6, 2014 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  15. useless

    Progressives always win – too slowly to suit themselves and too quickly to suit conservatives, but they always win. This will change, whether by Utah, by SCOTUS or by Federal law... it will change. Deniers have been denying this change all along, but state by state, just like the end of slavery. Marriage equality is coming.

    January 6, 2014 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  16. Thomas E

    As a straight person I must say gay weddings are better than straight weddings anyway. They have better decorations, food and the DJ's rock. It's like a darn nightclub.

    January 6, 2014 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  17. skarphace

    Bottom line: if the federal or state governments pass laws restricting churches from performing religious acts (of which the marriage ceremony is one), then these laws are unconsti tutional and will be eventually thrown out by the SCOTUS. As long as the term "marriage contract" is defined by law, and not by individual religious groups, then marriage is a civil contract, not a religious one. This is pure "separation of church and state" and follows both "freedom from religion" and "freedom of religion." Any law prohibiting churches from performing marriage ceremonies for same gender couples violates our consti tution.

    January 6, 2014 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  18. Thomas E

    " Marriage is defined by law and is therefore a civil contract," AGREED! Therefore, there can be NO DISCRIMINATION.

    January 6, 2014 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  19. Rudy NYC

    Fair is Fair

    "Marriage is defined by law as a civil contract. You may not like this fact, but it is still a fact."

    It is indeed. So in a nation that has a separation of church and state, should all marriages performed in places of worship be declared null and void?
    ------------------------
    Don't go stupid on us, Fair. If we carry your argument, that only Christian conservatives can define marriage, to its' illogical conclusion, then what is to stop Christian conservatives from dictating to OTHER RELIGIONS about how to conduct their marriage ceremonies?

    The 1st Amendment is what stops them, and it also stops them from dictating how civil ceremonies may be conducted. Like I said several pages ago, practice what you preach.

    January 6, 2014 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  20. skarphace

    Hawkeye07

    At last – states have the right to regulate marriage – not the federal government.

    ---–

    I wouldn't count your chickens just yet.

    January 6, 2014 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  21. jimi.

    The day I have equal rights, and those rights are protected by the Federal Government, will be the day I pay equal taxes.

    January 6, 2014 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  22. skarphace

    tom l

    And I think that moveon must have hired a new comment poster here. Skarphace is all over the board!

    ---–

    This is my original moniker, thank you very much, and I am between classes and am bored with the other news stories. Please do not as sume to know me. I would not show you that level of disrespect.

    January 6, 2014 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  23. Tiffins

    Not sure what the big deal is around this issue...(except from religious zealots). Let people be who they are and with the right to choose. That is what freedom is all about.

    January 6, 2014 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  24. skarphace

    Maggie

    I appear to be unable to reply to anyone's post. Is this a problem for everyone or have I don't something strange to my computer?

    -----

    I have the same problem when somebody has a banned word in their comment. I don't know why some people are able to post words like ho mos exuality in one word and I am not, but I have to break up their comment in order to reply. Perhaps this is your problem as well?

    January 6, 2014 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  25. conoclast

    On the gay issue the country as a whole has moved on - of course with the exception of right-wing stronghold states that are still mired in "christian values" - and their own commitment to ignorance.

    January 6, 2014 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
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