January 6th, 2014
10:38 AM ET
9 years 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. CosmicC

    I suspect that the reason for the stay is the broad nature of the ruling. If upheld, it will result in same-sex marriage being legal in all 50 states.

    January 6, 2014 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  2. ChrisM

    cyngar said "All the anti Utah posts. May I remind you that your wonderfully forward thinking California voted to ban gay marriage"
    Yes, CA did do that thanks to the millions of dollars brought in by the Mormons, But guess what, The mormons LOST !!
    The Majority does NOT get to vote on the EQUAL RIGHTS of the Minority.
    Remember the south, cyngar.

    January 6, 2014 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  3. Nate

    @ TeaParty4Life...any American is a 'real American'. It is someone that makes comments like you do that does, however become an American embarrassment..

    January 6, 2014 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  4. Kobbe Amoah

    Good other states should follow..Even animals don't sleep with their same sex, If all RIGHTS are being granted this world will turn upside down.

    January 6, 2014 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  5. Rudy NYC

    Fair is Fair wrote:

    "The state's request to the Supreme Court was filed with Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who handles emergency appeals from Utah and the five other states in the 10th Circuit. Sotomayor turned the matter over to the entire court."

    You don't like it? Take it up with Sotomayor. It was within her power to make the decision, and she punted.
    I think the quick punt was brilliant. It will help ensure that the right wing is consumed with social issues.

    January 6, 2014 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  6. Scott

    If you don't like gay marriage, don't do it. If it is an affront to you, don't do it! What happened to the separation of church and state?

    January 6, 2014 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  7. Tom Legare

    Utah is only postponing the inevitable. All those "wacky" Mormons better get used to the idea. If they can marry multiple women and little girls surely they can recognize same sex marraiges.. There is no escaping this inevitable fact... Like it or not, get over it!!

    January 6, 2014 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  8. Sniffit

    "Maybe the court can now rule on how magnets work...Magic?"

    Ha, no kidding...and while we're at it, let's revisit Scopes! That'll teach you natural world!!!! Turtles I say!!!! It's turtles ALL THE WAY DOWN!!!!

    You know, it's funny, for a group of myopic, bigoted, backwards-thinking science-deniers who refuse to believe in evolution, they sure do wish to implement and manipulate Darwin's theories regarding natural selection via their legislative efforts. I suppose it's just another cherry on top of the fantastical hypocrisy-irony sundae the conservatives are slurping.

    January 6, 2014 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  9. Bootyfunk

    way to be on the wrong side of history, Utah. twenty years from now you will be like the southern states that blocked civil rights for minorities. stay classy!

    January 6, 2014 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  10. TONE

    I do not care about the ruling because we still have homosexuals who vote for the gop. So they get what they vote for.

    January 6, 2014 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  11. pauleky

    Some well-reasoned comments here among the haters. Hopefully, hate and ignorance won't win out here.

    January 6, 2014 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  12. Brian

    If you get married in a state that allows same-sex marriages, every other state has to recognize your marriage under the full faith and credit clause, so it's effectively legal in the entire US as long as you get married in a state that allows it.

    January 6, 2014 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  13. JLS639

    "each one is an affront... to the interests of the states and its citizens in being able to define marriage through ordinary democratic channels"

    Another phrase for conservatives to be embarrassed about in 5-20 years. The up and coming conservative politicians of today will be saying they never agreed with this in the future. Normally I would not advise listening to Rush Limbaugh, but you should listen to him on this. People trying to stop gay marriage: you lost. You are only making yourselves look bad now. Give up the lost fight.

    January 6, 2014 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  14. CaptainObvious

    The federal courts cannot reject DOMA based on the federal government being one of "limited powers," and then only a few months later support a ruling which suggests that the individual states do not have the power to legislate broadly for the health, safety, welfare and morals of its citizens.

    Judge Shelby from Utah should be ashamed. He started this fiasco with an entirely rogue ruling which flies in the face of the Supremes rational as seen in the DOMA case. Poor jurisprudence and lack of competent judicial skill at its finest.

    January 6, 2014 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  15. Sniffit

    "So did marriages, and the holy sacrament of marriage exist prior to the forming of this country and its government?"

    They existed before Christ, before Christianity, before the Catholic Church and all of its ridiculous Platonisms and fruity ceremonial pomp, etc. Altruistic partnership for mutual benefit, enjoyment and survival existed well before organized religion, champ, so get a clue.

    January 6, 2014 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  16. hank kelly

    Sotomayer had jurisdiction and could have ruled on the stay herself. Instead, she asked the entire Supreme Court to join in. Scalia and Thomas aren't going to let the gays in Utah get married. They will have to be dragged and screaming until the end.

    January 6, 2014 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  17. Skeptic

    "A Denver-based federal appeals court will take up the larger issues on an expedited basis in coming weeks"

    Talk about a high court!

    January 6, 2014 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  18. The Real Tom Paine


    Good for Utah and the US. This Country is full of enough degeneracy we don't need anymore than we already have. Another set back for GLAAD is a win for real Americans!!

    So, TeaParty4Life, your definition of freedom does not extend to behavior that you don't engage in, yet you feel must be stopped using every bit of power the Feds have because your personal sensibilities are offended......as I said before, free-loading hypocrites all.

    January 6, 2014 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  19. Silence DoGood

    “Congress has no power to make any religious establishments.”
    ~Roger Sherman, Congress, August 19, 1789

    January 6, 2014 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  20. J Russ

    why is the Federal government involved in marriage to begin with?

    January 6, 2014 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  21. oh

    The state argued last week in its high court appeal that "as a result of the district court's injunction, numerous same-sex marriages are now occurring every day in Utah. And each one is an affront... to the interests of the states and its citizens in being able to define marriage through ordinary democratic channels."
    Duh, that's the whole point of having equal rights protection under the law. "Ordinary democratic channels" can not usurp that protection.

    January 6, 2014 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  22. jonjon

    The supreme court isn't looking at this from a moral point of view. They're thinking just like every other business, how does this affect the economy. On one hand they get one time payments for the marriage license, but on the other hand these entities won't be passing on their knowledge to future blood generation. Long term they aren't preparing kids for college and employment. Its the age old question of is it easier to retain a customer or get new ones. Gay Marriages don't bring retention. I understand we're talking about real people and their lives, but many higher ups will look at this from that angle.

    January 6, 2014 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  23. anonymous

    this is nothing more than government dictating to religions what the new definition of marriage is. what next? a total rewrite of the ten commandments to suit politcal needs? instead of thous shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, will we be forced to say thou shalt not covert they neighbor's wife or same sex partner?

    which brings up a good point. in a gay marriage is one declared the husband and one the wife? or are they spouses? yes, let's pervert the entire language to suit the needs of a small minority that want their aberant life style considered main stream.

    January 6, 2014 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  24. Brad

    Thank heavens for small favors. Hopefully the high court will strike this down, before Almighty God wipes this country off the face of the earth like Sodom.

    January 6, 2014 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  25. TruthandConsequence

    One judge finds it "unconstitutional" while another finds it not "unconstitutional" enough to disallow a stay. Really something for a Constitution which in no way ever supported "gay" marriage nor was written by anyone who did. Our constitution is silly puddy in the hands of judges....and our democratic rights are out the window.

    January 6, 2014 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
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