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)
DO not understand the gay marriage movement. Do not know why some individuals are gay. The thought of Climbing into bed with another individual of the same sex makes ill, but who am I to say. I guess we will all get judged by
the Supreme Being someday. As far as the government is concerned, they cannot even solve their own problems, let alone ours. I guess that is another subject.
Way to go Utah and hopefully it will be like that here in Florida
Yep, marriage is such a religious institution that the oldest recording ones were political and business in nature.
Legal marriage is different than religious ones as evidenced by the fact that you can have one without the other. This is nothing more than an arguement over semantics.
I thought we lived in a country where people can vote for laws they want. This article clearly states that the members of the state voted for that law in 2004. I think it is wrong of the court to rule against the voice of the people. Take out what the issue is and look at how this was handled. It should go back to the people to see if they want to change their law.
This isn't a dictatorship either. It is a democracy where the people have the say. Not some judge.
Just because it was voted on by voters, doesn't mean it passed Constitutional muster. What if citizens voted in slavery? Wouldn't one hope the SCOTUS would halt that? What if a state took away voters' rights? Simply voting on something doesn't make it legitimate. Meanwhile Utah is playing a very weak card, claiming that same-sex marriage affects the quality of other marriages. Mull that one over....
I'm not against the "GLAAD" people wanting to do their thing, but oh no, they insist on making a big production out of it. but the more they push their lifestyle on the rest of us, the more turned off on the whole issue I become. Marriage is between a man and a women, civil unions are just that, a union between others, but not marriage.
And what ever happened with the concept that a judge can simply overrule a decision made by the people in a fair and honest election. Why even bother going to the polls to vote if a "judge" can just overrule the will of the people. Whatever happened to the rule of the people is the final say. Whats next, some judge declaring the election a fraud and declaring who's the President.
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.
How would that work for hetero couples who don't marry in the church? Would their marriages be illigimate?
this is nothing. just a delay about due process because the state is just grasping for straws that's all.
Land of the Free
More like land of scared god fearing clowns
What about straight couples who marry outside the church?
This needs to be an issue that all citizens are included in the debate. We need a national referendum put on the ballot to make a decision BY the people, FOR the people NOT just a select few. If the whole country votes up then it is a law,if not they shut up and sit down...
Thank goodness they stopped the gay marriage thing as everyone in Utah knows that allowing gays to marry will be the downfall of the Mormon Church, the cause of poverty, further global warming, and create general chaos in Utah .. dogs and cats sleeping together, and dramatically increase gas prices and double the cost of a gallon of milk... etc...
Lose your morals, and Lose your reputation.........whether a country, or an individual...........
“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
Why so frightened by a very legitimate question CNN mods?
ed, Your correct but the State's constitution is what establishes the rights to marriage. In the Prop 8 case it was pretty clear that being gay was a protected status, and thus prop 8 conflicted with the State constitution. It is unclear that the Utah constitution protects such preferences, and thus it is a de novo question in Utah.
Land of the free unless (insert stupid fears here)
States rights? What are those?
Remember the Salem witch trials that's how messed up most people are they believe in fear not love
People say that stopping gay marriage is protecting the moral fiber of the US. Why not do something about the murder rate, there were more murders in Chicago in 2013 than there were troops killed in Afghanistan. Pretty sure the first of the 10 commandments is about murder. Why arent religious groups flocking to Chicago, DC, New Orleans, NY etc rallying against murder? Lets get that under control before we start worrying about 2 people that love each other and want to spend their lives together.
I live in NJ and my wife and I have been married for almost 28 years. We now have same-sex marriage in NJ. I believe this has affected our marriage – in a positive way. We can now be on equal footing with our LGBT friends. It's no longer awkward to discuss marriage-related matters with those friends. We can celebrate their weddings.
Nothing says "freedom" like "you don't get to have what I get to have because I have declared you inferior."
Yeah I am amazed how our nation is embarking on so many "NEW freedoms ." that will eventually be the downfall of our nation. I am grateful for this small victory in the supreme court and still stunned the supreme court overturned the the democratic process of the voters in California.
how does anybody have a 'right' to something that never existed before? namely a union between same sex individuals that is called a marriage. liberals like to talk about precedent in court cases. well how about historical precedent? never in the course of human history or the history of this country were same sex marriages granted or performed until the looney leftist jurists on the massachusetts supreme court suddenly claimed it was a right.
call it anything you want but it is in no way a marriage. and yes, we are all affected by gay marriages. i don't want people asking me if i am married to a man or a woman. i don't want my children looking at two gay men and thinking that is a marriage, because it is not in any traditional or historical sense of the word. i don't want gay marriages forced into their school materials and promulgating that this is in any way normal, because it is not.
I think it's reasonable to have civil unions that are open to all. Don't call them marriages. Then have religious marriages that are up to each denomination. The state can only have a say in civil unions and only the state can have a say in them. Religious marriages should have no legal standing, only civil unions.
Praise the Lord, Hallelujah, thank you Jesus...It is about time!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Well anyways there's 3 zombie weapons underneath Denver Colorado International Airport for Operation Trojan Horse, we're talking Zombie Apocalypse.