January 6th, 2014
10:38 AM ET
8 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. Bobdole

    Same sex marriage is a joke. Nothing more than smoke and mirrors. Now I do not care if same sex couples happen. Nor does it bother me. What bothers me is this circus show thats been put on by the media about marriage equality. I love former governor Jesse Ventures idea on same sex marriage. Anyone, regardless of sex, should be able to get a certificate of union. Leaving it up to the church(s) to marry people. It would eliminate the need for this topic to keep coming up. It also keeps the government out of peoples private lives. Now it wouldnt be a complete fix all as there would still be folks out there that disagree same sex marriage but it would take the government out of the argument. If people had a problem with a church marring same sex couples then they just simply go to a different church. Lets get back to more important topics that have world wide impacts and implications.

    January 6, 2014 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  2. Mark in Montana

    It is about state's rights, which is good. If you don't like the state you live in, you can move to one you do like. I just wish we could put immigration rules and quotas in place for people from CA wanting to move to Montana. Wait we do a process in place. It is called cold weather. One good cold winter and all those folks from CA are moving out of the state.

    January 6, 2014 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  3. WhatsRight

    I am glad that they blocked it. Good to know there's a state still has values. I cant believe how easily gay marriage has been allowed to sweep in and deceive people in the last 10 years. It wont be long before we lose all morality....whatever we do have left. Way to go Utah.

    January 6, 2014 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  4. useless

    The fight against marriage equality is a useless one. Waste your money on this fight because those who want it, want it more than those who don't. Civil rights are unstoppable in our society and while they may be stopped temporarily by this ruling or even the SCOTUS, eventually the feds will over-rule all of this nonsense and we'll have greater freedom for all. My hetero marriage in NH is not suffering in the least over gay marriage, but with this greater freedom, I am also more free. I know that if any of my four kids are gay, that they will have the right to marry the one the love.

    January 6, 2014 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  5. Reality

    Hey Utah, your backwoods bigotry is showing. History will not look favorably upon you. Future generations will be embarrassed because of you. Keep wearing your magic jammies and pretend that you’re on the right side of justice and morality.

    January 6, 2014 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  6. Rudy NYC

    Armor66

    Marriage is itself a religious institution. I find it ironic that those advocating a "separation of church and state" are the ones so vocally expressing a desire to enter into the religious institution of marriage and using the federal courts to do it.
    --------------------
    What does your religion have to do with a marriage ceremony performed by a public official at City Hall? How much of a right does your church, or mine, have to a say in whether or not those ceremonies should be performed?

    January 6, 2014 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  7. steve101

    @Sharon T... it's not about procreation. ...and "selfish urges"? Your gay is showing!

    January 6, 2014 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  8. Bill, NY

    I wonder if Demon Hunter Scalia recused himself. This judge should recuse himself every time a religious issue hits this court due to his published opinions on religion. He actually stated that he believes that the Devil is a real person living amongst us, if that's not grounds for recusal nothing is.

    January 6, 2014 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  9. mike

    So much for the Equal Protection clause. The Supreme Court's right-wing activist judges strike again.

    January 6, 2014 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  10. James

    Why does everyone keep screaming about religion? Why is marriage a government thing and not a personal religious thing? Has anyone bothered to ask that? The purpose of marriage on a government level is to get tax breaks and other benefits that help a couple afford to raise children as well as promote them doing so. I know its been a while since I took sex ed in elementary school but I do specifically remember a topic that clearly stated it takes a man and a woman to create a new child. Since that isn't even remotely possible at the moment(who knows, maybe someone will create test tube babies from same sex couples next) they shouldn't be given those benefits. And before some idiot screams about how not everyone has kids, I also hold the believe that they shouldn't be allowed to be married until they do. This has nothing to do with religion so stop crying like it does. I don't care why those people voted for what they voted, the fact remains that government recognized marriage is for promoting procreation. Technically, same sex couples can get married in any state in this country. It is just not a government recognized marriage. Here is a thought. Take away all benefits from all married couples unless they have kids. Lets see how many same sex couples want to get married still. Just people being greedy again.

    January 6, 2014 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  11. HistoryTeacher

    Marriage has nothing to do with biology, it is religious and social. If it was biological, we would marry for the formative years of the children, then divorce and move on. I have absolutely no biological reason as a man to stay with a woman who will get fat and old, rather than going after healthy and attractive women who can produce healthy offspring. I may be fat and old, but I can provide economically for her, and as society shows us, that works. That is biology. Society frowns upon it, and some religions won't allow it. Ironically, most if not all religions allowed for multiple wives at one time, which makes economic sense for society and is something we should look at allowing again.

    January 6, 2014 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  12. Larry in Houston

    ""If you don’t want gay-marriage – don’t get gay-married. Otherwise, stay out of the business of consenting adults""

    nuff said !!

    January 6, 2014 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  13. Paul

    I'm hetero and don't smoke pot, but I'll sure be glad in 5-10 years when the same-sex and legalizing pot issues are done, and we could maybe move onto more constructive issues? (I live in Tennessee. I suspect it will take us a bit more time than other states...) What a waste of time. Most amusing is when you get a "moral" person like Gingrich railing against same-sex marriages. Alcohol is okay, Pot-smoking is not? And somehow two people of the same sex getting married will ruin all hetero marriages? We're well into the second decade of the 21st century folks, let's start acting like it.

    January 6, 2014 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  14. corpsman

    Keep in mind that the "activist judge" is a republican whose appointment was supported by old-guard republican Orrin Hatch and tea party favorite Mike Lee. The Supreme Court made the right decision on the stay, in deference to states' rights, but Utah will not prevail in the appeals court, and then will appeal to the SCOTUS where they will also lose, and millions of taxpayer dollars will line the lawyers' pockets.

    January 6, 2014 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  15. Hillcrester

    This is just a procedural delay–albeit unnecessary IMO–until the Court of Appeals finishes its expedited review.

    January 6, 2014 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  16. Mark

    Hooray for Utah!!

    I get so SICK of hearing from the GLBT community about how much "Americans" are in favor of this. LIES, LIES, and more LIES. This has been on the ballot in numerous states over the last 5 to 10 years and it gets voted down!!
    MOST Americans don't approve!! I think Phil Robertson spoke for many Americans with his comments to GQ.

    Sorry GLBT, legislation from the bench doesn't equal "the will of the majority".

    January 6, 2014 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  17. Adam

    Yes, the people of Utah voted for this 10 years ago... Times change. There is also something seriously wrong when the majority gets to decide on the freedoms of the minority to begin with. I am glad the courts get to decide whether the ban is unconstitutional or not so the minority can still have a voice. Hopefully the higher courts agree with the previous decision.

    January 6, 2014 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  18. William

    @Sharon T – biology is a product of evolution and therefor not so cut and dry as you make it. Of all of the gay people I know, I can assure you that they are naturally, biological gay. Natural selection has it's place, but ultimately evolution is blind and does not pick and choose. Wake up and smell the humanity, it's more complex than you think. Biologically straight people have no right to tell biologically gay people that they cannot marry. This will not stop them from being gay. They don't have a choice and you can't legislate them into becoming heterosexuals. What do you propose we do with the gay population? I really do want you to answer that.

    January 6, 2014 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  19. Will

    Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, a Republican, had criticized Shelby's ruling, calling him "an activist federal judge."

    Definition of "activist federal judge" – a judge who interprets the Constitution's content regarding equality as different than one's own biases about equality, or homosexuality, or evolution, or equal rights. I imagine that those opposed to women's right to vote or blacks' right to citizenship felt a similar way to Gov. Herbert's views on marriage equality for all.

    January 6, 2014 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  20. Silence DoGood

    @Sharon T "Marriage between a man and woman has NOTHING to do with religion; its about biology."
    Ooooo – I don't really think Radical Right Creationists folks are the authority on Biology!

    January 6, 2014 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  21. Misstiff

    I'm from Utah and many people who live here want marriage equality. It's such a shame that the special interests of a certain religion is called the "majority" and everyone who lives in Utah is considered to be a part of this blatant prejudice. I sincerely hope that SCOTUS makes the decision that upholds peoples rights and doesn't go along with the views of those who have more power than compassion.

    January 6, 2014 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  22. SkepticalOne

    The religious zealots continue to fight to force their beliefs on everyone else.

    January 6, 2014 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  23. Rudy NYC

    Think Again wrote:

    This is a bad ruling. Objection to gay marriage is religious-based; we are not a theocracy. The establishment clause of the Constitution specifically separates Church and State.

    PERIOD.
    --------------
    [ co-sign ]

    I think the Christian Conservatives need to realize that it works both ways. If they don't want the government telling them how to conduct themselves and how to run their churches, then they need to stop telling the government how to conduct itself.

    January 6, 2014 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  24. JohnnyD

    Whole country is involved in a perverse human experiment. Lets all just pretend that having the government legitimize homosexuality with a "marriage license" as well as indoctrinating (yes pure religion) the masses that humans have no choice when it comes to their sexual desires has no impact on who we are as a society. Then lets see what happens to our moral compass.

    Does gay marriage impact me? My tax dollars support it, it is now legitimized and endorsed by my government. The brainwashed views of those pushing the gay agenda are now forced into the education system and our legal system. We are all forced to use public education unless we are rich enough to home school a child or private school and our children are inundated with the religion of sexual experimentation and normalization of sexual deviants.

    Do I believe you can be born gay? Absolutely, but your genes are only a small determinant or else EVERY Twin would have the same sexuality as their sibling which science has proven is not the case. Sexuality is imprinted on your sould and once imprinted is nearly impossible to change. It is why people are aroused their whole life by their own fetishes. Undoing your sexual development is near impossible, so we should stop this grand social experiment before it is too late. Wake up people.

    January 6, 2014 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  25. ererer

    @Dave Wave

    *Sense. #illiterate

    January 6, 2014 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
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