January 6th, 2014
10:38 AM ET
7 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. GOP = Greed Over People

    What is next from the Mormon dominated "majority" in Utah, laws banning any "inferior" blacks from living inside it borders?

    January 6, 2014 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  2. 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."

    You say that as if we're not constantly surrounded by and deluged with the ubiquitous conservative Christian commentary that proves me right. Are there a few exceptions to the rule? Sure. There always are. Do they speak up? Nope. Do they continue to support the agenda of hate? Yep. Does that make them enablers and just as bad? Without question.

    January 6, 2014 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  3. Sniffit

    "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?"

    And BTW, Fair, that twisting of the issue is ridiculous for other reasons. There are only 2 reasons states recognize marriages performed by clergy or religious officials: (1) most states legislate that certain clergy and religious officials are automatically recognized as empowered to perform a state-recognized marriage and (2) many states actually require the clergy and religious officials to go out and obtain the same license that Uncle Jim did when he performed the marriage ceremony for your cousin's wedding. With respect to the latter, failure of a religious official to get that license would mean that the state has no legal obligation and is, in fact, legally prohibited from recognizing a marriage he or she performed.

    January 6, 2014 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  4. PK

    Anything Utah does should be the model of what the rest of the country doesn't do.

    January 6, 2014 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  5. Michael

    America the Great has fallen....

    January 6, 2014 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  6. Cedar Rapids

    Nice post HaroldLewisBlair. You captured perfectly the idiotic musings of the conspiracy nuts.

    January 6, 2014 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  7. "Breath and Release"

    @ HaroldLewisBlair

    Wow! You really need to pull your head out and get some fresh air. You're scary.

    January 6, 2014 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  8. Rudy NYC

    skarphace wrote:

    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.
    -----------------–
    That's just his standard method of operation. He likes to launch personal attacks that are beyond ridiculous.

    January 6, 2014 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  9. skarphace

    Sniffit

    "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?"

    And BTW, Fair, that twisting of the issue is ridiculous for other reasons. There are only 2 reasons states recognize marriages performed by clergy or religious officials: (1) most states legislate that certain clergy and religious officials are automatically recognized as empowered to perform a state-recognized marriage and (2) many states actually require the clergy and religious officials to go out and obtain the same license that Uncle Jim did when he performed the marriage ceremony for your cousin's wedding. With respect to the latter, failure of a religious official to get that license would mean that the state has no legal obligation and is, in fact, legally prohibited from recognizing a marriage he or she performed.

    ---–

    Exactly. This is why the Mormon church was not prohibited from performing marriage ceremonies for polygamists. However, those marriages were in no way recognized by the state. Therefore, to a certain extent, what Fair has claimed has already happened on a smaller scale.

    January 6, 2014 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  10. The Real Tom Paine

    -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??
    ***********************************
    Another pearl of wisdom from my inspiration.

    January 6, 2014 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  11. If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

    The religious are always screaming about their right to "freedom of religion", yet all they seem to do is force their "freedom of religion" on the rest of us at the expense of our freedoms. Allowing two consenting adults to marry, in no way diminishes your freedom to practice whatever religion you choose.

    January 6, 2014 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  12. Mike in SS

    Take out the word "marriage", make everything a civil union for local, county, state, federal level, and leave the "marriages" where they should be, with the church of your choice. That way the religious/non-religious conservatives can't their panties in a bunch and the religious/non-religious liberals get the equal rights under the law for all that I think should happen. BTW, I am a very religious Conservative, and we are spending way to much time, money, and effort on this thing. Make everything for legal purposes a "civil union" and keep marriages in the religious section where they have always been. I know this will tick off my liberal and conservative friends. So be it.

    January 6, 2014 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  13. Chuck Gudgel

    I predicted that Utah would waste money on this, as it happened with black people, and women,...and..now it's happening with gay people. It speaks volumes about a certain group of people, in a not flattering way. We have to vote these very ugly people out of office.
    I think, in the end, as with black folks, and women, civil rights will prevail, and given The Supreme Court's ruling on DOMA, and I don't think the hateful folks in Utah will win. If they do, it will be a sad statement about Utah, and our country. I believe the 14'th Amendment Equal Protection Clause will prevail in the end. I find it disgusting that millions get spent trying to defeat equal rights.

    January 6, 2014 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  14. skarphace

    Michael

    America the Great has fallen

    ----

    So said many when civil rights were passed. Imagine a black man having the right to vote! Preposterous!

    January 6, 2014 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  15. Draax

    Curious I thought equality has a basic human right ... not a belief.

    January 6, 2014 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  16. Silence DoGood

    @Michael "America the Great has fallen...."
    -------–
    I am going to assume you mean we are not the type of Christian Nation you imagine we should be. Why are Christian conservatives ashamed to say what they really mean? Answer – we never were:

    “The Government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.”
    ~1797 Treaty of Tripoli signed by John Adams

    January 6, 2014 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  17. Thomas E

    If you have any questions please refer to Duck Dynasty.

    January 6, 2014 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  18. Jackson

    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)

    ______________

    You know, if you turn your tin foil hat 3 degrees to the left, you'll get Radio Free Europe.

    January 6, 2014 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  19. VJ

    When we have dysfunctional congress, we have dysfunctional judges as well.... It is sad to hear this news...... Too Bad....

    January 6, 2014 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  20. Sotomayor did everyone a favor

    OK – Follow my thinking. If Justice Sotomayor had denied the stay, the end result would have been that Utah would be required to continue recognizing same gender marriage. A very good thing. Her record and her ruling in the recent SC wins sugges she would have ruled against the stay. She could have ruled summarily to that effect without involving the rest of the justices. By taking the question of the stay up to the rest of the justices, she was banking on the result being in favor of the state: No more same gender marriage. Admittedly, a negative for those in favor of same gender marriage in that state. So why did she do this?

    Think of the bigger picture. A stay would have been an win for same gender marriage in Utah and ONLY Utah. It would have gone no further. By approving the stay, she has assured it will be appealed to the the Federal Appeals Court in Denver.

    If the Appeals Court rules in favor of same gender marriage in Utah (and it is VERY likely they will), it would likely have implications for all the states in its circuit – but it would immediately be stayed and sent to the US Spreme Court.

    If the Appeals Court rules against same gender marriage, it would similarly be appealed to the US Supreme Court.

    Regardless of their decision – pro or con – she has GUARANTEED that the matter will be reviewed by the US Supreme Court to settle the matter for the entire nation. And given the precendent set in the two cases it found in favor of same gender marriage in 2013, the court would be required to find in favor of same gender marriage for the entire nation. Says who? Scalia and Roberts in their desenting decision.

    Yes, Sotomayor's approval of the stay means that for a time same gender marriage in Utah will be put on hold. But it has also had the larger and unavoidable effect of guarnteeing same gender marriage in every state.

    January 6, 2014 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  21. skarphace

    Mike in SS

    Take out the word "marriage", make everything a civil union for local, county, state, federal level, and leave the "marriages" where they should be, with the church of your choice.

    ----

    Or, another idea, leave the term "marriage" to be for civil contracts, as was the case when marriage was originally defined, and have the churches come up with their terms, say "sacramental bonding". This way, nothing has to change.

    January 6, 2014 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  22. WhatsRight

    We have no sense of morality anymore. What ever happened to following the commandments of God, and not looking for ways around it. I wish more states would follow in Utah's path. The gay marriage fight is not about equality and acceptance. It's about a left wing agenda and sin. This world today has a real Sin problem, and we will go to great lengths to hide it and justify it. Left Wingers scream tolerance to "all" people. But hate those who follow God's word. They are intolerant of Christians, and would love to shut them up, all the while promoting "tolerance". It's a joke really.There is no tolerance for Christians in Utah, or anywhere else. I hope Utah wins this....and I hope that we will not become push-overs.

    January 6, 2014 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  23. Jackson

    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.

    ___________

    They aren't mired in christian values at all. Bring up any other passages from the bible, such as selling your daughter into slavery, killing your child for smiting you, not going near a woman during her menstrual cycle, etc, and they will immediately think of any one of a number of reasons why *those* don't apply anymore. Most of the people posting in these forums are just cherry picking their religion, so aren't true followers.

    January 6, 2014 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  24. Susan StoHelit

    The ruling isn't a surprise – it was pure incompetence of Utah's government that they didn't file for an automatic stay BEFORE the lower court's ruling. That's normally what would have been done. A stay when there is any reasonable doubt of the outcome is easy to get, so this ruling today is not a surprise.

    It's the outcome of the court case that is what will be interesting.

    And churches today aren't part of legal marriage – the fact that we let the pastor be one of many people who can sign the marriage license as a witness doesn't mean it's a religious contract – a pastor can marry anyone he likes, but it's not legally recognized unless there is a marriage license from the state.

    January 6, 2014 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  25. juicy fruit

    Draax
    Curious I thought equality has a basic human right ... not a belief.
    --

    equality of what? nothing is ever truly equal. do you honestly think we all have equal protection under the law? next joke. the law allows the government to steal much more from some while taking nothing from others. where is the equality there?

    i can't get into the luxury boxes at the stadium because the government takes so much of my money. yet more inquality.....

    January 6, 2014 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
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