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. Casey

    @jackson
    "One huge legal problem with that thought. Unless there is a church somewhere in this country that can show that they legally hold either the copyright to marriage, the patent on marriage, or the trademark of the word marriage, they don’t have a legal leg to stand on.

    It really is just that simple."
    ---------–
    You missed the original commentator's point. The original comment points out that many people perceive 'marriage' as having a spiritual, conceptual definition, but that is not accurate. Marriage is a legal status as it confers legal rights and benefits. The original commenter is saying that legal unions conferring tax and other benefits should all be called 'civil unions' and that marriage should be a purely conceptual word that should not impart any legal status. There would be no legal conflict as the term 'marriage' would be nothing more then a social term that would mean different things to different people.

    January 6, 2014 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  2. Yahoonski

    A state-rights issue, Governor? Shouldn't human rights trump state rights?

    January 6, 2014 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  3. spudnik56

    Bigotry and stupidity are alive and well in Utah...

    January 6, 2014 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  4. Utah Resident

    This ruling saddens me but I hope the ruling goes in favor of gays. This may lead to striking down every state law banning gay marriage. Sometimes it's rough living in Utah because of the way religion manipulates the state.

    January 6, 2014 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  5. dike

    Is this not the state that polygamy is legal?

    January 6, 2014 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  6. PaytonB

    So much for Utah taking a step forward into humanity.

    January 6, 2014 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  7. areyoumymoms

    WhatsRight

    "...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."

    _____________________________________________________________________________________________

    You have to be kidding. This country was founded on, and still follows, Christian values, much to our ultimate demise. Those of us who fight for marriage equality do not hate Christians. Many of us are, in fact, Christians. Most of us just wish the far Christian right would read the ENTIRE Bible, instead of just memorizing passages that fit into their agenda. I find that most Christians are better than "tolerant." A lot of Christians read the part of their Book about loving their neighbors, too.

    January 6, 2014 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  8. TJ

    Hmm... interesting! In Colorado, legalizing pot was the will of the people, and so it was done. Now in Utah, the will of the people is that gays not be allowed to defame marriage with their perversity, and yet the will of the people will most likely be over-ridden.

    Yeah... sounds like America; Just not the one our Founders created or desired.

    January 6, 2014 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  9. Anthony

    India did the same thing a couple weeks ago...Tell me again how America is better than the rest of the world?

    January 6, 2014 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  10. Chris

    About time the Federal Government recognizes that States have a Right to Govern them selves without the Federal Government meddling in their affairs, such as WA and CO with legal weed. Way to go Utah!

    January 6, 2014 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  11. Sniffit

    "Please give me examples that prove the hate is the norm rather than the exception."

    Are you joking? Do you not even read the Ticker when you post here? Do you not listen to the words coming out of GOP/Teatroll politicians' mouths? Do you not look at the consistently failed attempts to establish with empirical evidence that the societal ills they claim will be visited upon us all will actually come to fruition if gay peoples' marriages are recognized by the gov't (i.e., the destruction of straight marriage, "the children" being all messed up, etc.)? Do you not listen to the complete and utter hot mess of hate and self-declared superiority and religious voodoo mumbo jumbo being broadcast on a daily basis by prominent conservative leaders and extremely wealthy and electorally influential conservative groups demanding that gay marriage not be allowed? Their ridiculous parade of imaginary horribles they constantly spew about? The down-talking and belittling and derogation of their fellow human beings based on religious EXCUSES and motivated by their own unmitigated (and untreated) self-esteem and educational deficiencies? Spare me the feigned ignorance, tom. You either see it all for what it is or you're blind to it's nature because you agree with it.

    January 6, 2014 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  12. Jackson

    TJ

    Hmm... interesting! In Colorado, legalizing pot was the will of the people, and so it was done. Now in Utah, the will of the people is that gays not be allowed to defame marriage with their perversity, and yet the will of the people will most likely be over-ridden.

    Yeah... sounds like America; Just not the one our Founders created or desired.

    _______________

    Pot is not a civil right.....that can be put to a vote.

    Marriage equality IS a civil right...that CANNOT be put to a vote.

    Educate yourself so you don't wander into forums looking like a third grade dropout.

    January 6, 2014 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  13. Jackson

    Did You Ever Notice that....

    anybody that doesn't believe what the left believes, is a hater?
    anybody that doesn't do what the left does, is weird or a hick or a red neck?

    ______________

    Did YOU ever notice that....

    anyone who disagrees with a conservative is accused of hating America?

    I.O.I.Y.A.R. in action, yet again.

    January 6, 2014 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  14. Sniffit

    "Tell me again how America is better than the rest of the world?"

    Let me spare you having to read through grammatically-incorrect solipsist rationalizations from the Teatrolls and just reduce their absurd self-centered silliness to the following: "Amurika something something, fark yeah!"

    January 6, 2014 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  15. Silence DoGood

    @TJ
    Hmm... interesting! In Colorado, legalizing pot was the will of the people, and so it was done. Now in Utah, the will of the people is that gays not be allowed to defame marriage with their perversity, and yet the will of the people will most likely be over-ridden.

    Yeah... sounds like America; Just not the one our Founders created or desired.
    ------
    hmmm – let's ask them:
    “In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own.”
    ~Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to Horatio Spofford, 1814

    January 6, 2014 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  16. areyoumymoms

    tom I

    "Please give me examples that prove the hate is the norm rather than the exception. Show me how we are "surrounded by and deluged with the ubiquitous conservative Christian commentary". If you were to look objectively rather than with emotion you will find the exact opposite to be true. The huge majority of people that oppose gay marriage that are Christians simply don't agree with it. It doesn't mean they have hate. It means they disagree. I live in the south, home of Christian conservatives, and I have to tell you that, generally speaking, my personal experience has been that they are extremely nice individuals and even though they disagree with my religioin (I'm Jewish) I don't feel the harbor an ounce of hate towards me. So prove to me that the rule is hate and that the exception is not."

    ________________________________________________

    I also live in the south, and am gay. When you're the target, it feels as though you are surrounded by hateful rhetoric and discriminatory laws. I would tend to agree that most people who oppose gay marriage don't do it in a violent or hateful manner. I also don't think that most gay people are out to "flaunt our lifestyle" in the faces of our opposition. But it only takes one encounter with someone who "disagrees" in a loud and hateful way to make you leery of everyone else who just quietly disagrees.

    So it kind of begs the question: If most gay people just want what's fair for us and have no intention of interfering with religious beliefs, and most Christians just quietly disagree, what's all the fuss? Why can't we both just agree to leave one another alone and let one another live as we were meant to? Religious people can have their religious beliefs and are more than welcome to disagree with our lives; we can get married (as recognized by the government) and will refrain from becoming members of religious orders whose tenets dictate that our lives are somehow immoral.

    January 6, 2014 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  17. question

    so, is this a question in fairness of love between 2 people? or is it a question financial benefits? morality or legality? would people accept a recognized same sex marriage of love without financial benefit?

    January 6, 2014 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  18. Dizzyd

    HLB – I knew sooner or later Obama would be dragged into this.
    Jack – 'What's the problem?' 'I don't like it! It's icky! Waaah!'
    Sniffit – great Gollum ref. Lol
    Maggie – you got through
    To the haters who salivate at the thought of gays going to hell, you really need to check your hearts. The Word itself says that God doesn't rejoice in the death of the wicked, so even if you think they're wrong you shouldn't be hoping for it. After all, 'take heed ye that think ye stand lest ye fall'.
    Finally, Julian – Seriously? Do you even BELIEVE in evolution?

    January 6, 2014 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  19. IA

    @ Jackson...If marriage equality is a civil right that CANNOT be put to a vote, why was Referrendum 74 put on the ballot here in Washington State in 2012? Just asking as I want to "educate" myself so I don't dilute the 3rd grade dropouts.

    January 6, 2014 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  20. Tony Montana

    Obama and the DNC stole the elections. Watergate 2.0. Science IS HOW god made the universe. God made man and woman to love each other. If god appeared and said obey life wouldn't be a test for the after life. When atheists such as gays and lesbians die they want and or will get no after-life in heaven.

    January 6, 2014 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  21. tom l

    Are you joking? Do you not even read the Ticker when you post here? Do you not listen to the words coming out of GOP/Teatroll politicians' mouths? Do you not look at the consistently failed attempts to establish with empirical evidence that the societal ills they claim will be visited upon us all will actually come to fruition if gay peoples' marriages are recognized by the gov't (i.e., the destruction of straight marriage, "the children" being all messed up, etc.)? Do you not listen to the complete and utter hot mess of hate and self-declared superiority and religious voodoo mumbo jumbo being broadcast on a daily basis by prominent conservative leaders and extremely wealthy and electorally influential conservative groups demanding that gay marriage not be allowed? Their ridiculous parade of imaginary horribles they constantly spew about? The down-talking and belittling and derogation of their fellow human beings based on religious EXCUSES and motivated by their own unmitigated (and untreated) self-esteem and educational deficiencies? Spare me the feigned ignorance, tom. You either see it all for what it is or you're blind to it's nature because you agree with it.

    =====

    You have given zero examples. The CNN ticker is your example? Because some people post on here some bigoted comments when the vast majority of those comments, again, do not come from hate. You have given me no true evidence other than your same drivel with regards to someone not agreeing with the president is therefore a racist. I don't hear hate in most cases (sometimes I do); but the vast majority is just their personal feelings. I'm Jewish. Someone doesn't agree with my religion doesn't mean they "hate" me. It means they have a different set of beliefs. In your entire response you didn't give me one piece of real evidence other than what you feel.

    And how dare you even try and assert that just because I can understand someone else's point of view then makes me agree with them. It's the exact opposite and such hollow claim by you since you know full well that I am in support of gay marriage. It is you that is close minded because you automatically equate "hate" with someone who doesn't support gay marriage. You are the one that is not open to other people's feelings. And, again, I must reiterate how small you are for even trying to make that assessment. And, finally, the only down-talking and belittling and derogation of their fellow human beings is exactly what you are doing right now.

    January 6, 2014 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  22. Silence DoGood

    @Chris
    About time the Federal Government recognizes that States have a Right to Govern them selves without the Federal Government meddling in their affairs, such as WA and CO with legal weed. Way to go Utah!
    ----------
    Like the time the Bush folks got the Federal Supreme Court to overturn Florida Law and get him elected?
    On a Twilight Zone episode I would love to see you wake up in a state that has just outlawed all marriages EXCEPT gay marriage. State rights, like state religion is very subjective to the conservative agenda.

    January 6, 2014 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  23. tail wagging the dog

    since when did we all decide that special interest minority groups should run the world?

    January 6, 2014 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  24. peick

    We seem to lower the standard of behavior every time we get the chance. What will happen to us if we finally encounter a huge crisis that requires people to stand up and sacrifice for the good of the nation? We're going to have no backbone left, no moral fiber, because all we ever do is pander to the lowest denominator. Want to divorce? No problem, we'll make it easy. Want to smoke hash? OK. Feel like being a woman even though you are a man? We'll help you. Someone was mean to you once and now you killed hundreds in a random attack? You poor, poor victim. We'll comfort you.

    January 6, 2014 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  25. Carl, Secaucus, NJ

    Utah is a beautiful state and a lot of Mormons are good people. Having said that, I believe gay couples should have the same right to civil marriage as straight couples.

    January 6, 2014 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
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