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. NotYoDaddy

    That didn't take long.

    January 6, 2014 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  2. rbnlegend

    I am still waiting for someone to bring a suit saying that a catholic church has to perform a wedding for a non-catholic couple. I've been waiting a long time, but, I'm sure that it will happen real soon now. Fact is, there is a long established history of churches being able to decide who they marry. The part you will really like is that plenty of churches perform gay weddings now, without involvement from the state. The church side of this dicsussion has already been decided. If your church is willing to perform the ceremony, you can get married in your church. This discussion is entirely and only about the legal marriage.

    Give unto Caesar... Hmm. Who said that one?

    January 6, 2014 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  3. skarphace


    The people voted and their votes must be respected.


    So, if "the people" of a certain state voted to bring back slavery, then their votes must be respected? You are confused. Our country is not purely Democratic. We are a Democratic Republic. This means that the majority must not be able to dictate laws pertaining to a minority unless those laws protect the majority from the minority. Until anybody can explain exactly how a law prohibiting gay marriage protects straight couples, then you have no point whatsoever.

    January 6, 2014 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  4. Rudy NYC

    Fair is Fair wrote:

    TRANSLATION: "I believe that the Bill of Rights begins with the 2nd Amendment."

    TRANSLATION: "I can't answer the question so I'll throw out a democratic talking point".
    REACTION: The question was a deliberate change of subject to an irrelevant topic. The bait and switch was properly ignored.
    Absoluteny NOT a change of subject. The topic was on the ability of the majority to dictate to the minority. You replied that is should not be allowed, and yet you advocate it elsewhere. Why won't you answer the question?
    What rights would be taken away by common sense gun legislation, Fair? You yourself has said many a time that is a slippery slope that would only lead to people's guns being taken away, which is totally false. When the banned "tommy guns" that you see in all of the old gangster movies, owners and collectors were required to register them. The only weapons that were ever confiscated were the ones that were never declared and registered.

    So, what civil rights are being taken away by background checks? They do a more thorough check when you apply for an auto loan, or even a job for that matter.

    January 6, 2014 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  5. buzweaver67

    Stop and ask yourself, what is the purpose for which the government is involved at all in gay marriage? Its not because two people love one another. The reason the State is involved in marriage is to perpetuate and stabilize society. We love all sorts of people in our lives, but we don't call those relationships marriage. The government doesn't call those relationships marriage. The reason the government says marriage is between a man and a women is because it brings great benefits to society.

    In particular children who grow up as part of that society. When you have same sex marriage you exclude children and make gender irrelevant. We end up with genderless marriage, which trivializes the uniqueness of marriage. We are a constitutional Republic, with balance of powers. We're of the people for the people. We aren't of the minority in place of the majority.

    January 6, 2014 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  6. Jackson


    The people voted and their votes must be respected.



    You cannot put civil rights to a vote.

    If a majority voted in your city that you were not allowed to leave your house, would you allowed the voters their way? Lie and tell me you would.

    January 6, 2014 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  7. bzahawi1

    1. If the ruling was based on equality for all and love then it should be a universal ruling and applied to all kind of relationships.
    2. I do not think that religious basis ( though I believe in them) should be part of the discussion as not all beleive in them. Instead of religious basis, why not talk about laws of nature and how nature intended things to work.

    January 6, 2014 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  8. Sniffit

    "Ummm. The govt is absolutely dictating to houses of worship just how to define marriage. We are all just waiting for that first lawsuit to hit a church for not conducting a marriage between 2 men or 2 women."

    No the gov't is quite literally not mandating that religious institutions perform marriage ceremonies for gay couples. It is determining which private contracts it will recognize legally for the purposes of taxes, inheritance, parental rights for adopted children and for children they have themselves (e.g., via a surrogate), spousal rights (such as hospital visitation or things like the spousal election with respect to a will), etc. You can keep waiting and waiting and waiting for your imagined horrible to come along, and we can all have a good laugh when that suit finally gets filed and gets thrown out, because there isn't a court in the country, liberal or not, that is ever going to rule that the gov't can demand that a religious institution perform its ceremonies in a particular manner. EVER. That's a very VERY false fear you're selling and everyone but the hysterical religio-fascists who oppose gay marriage recognizes that fact.

    January 6, 2014 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  9. Joe Normal

    someone please tell me why the government is waging war on Christian ideas of marriage – in the name of equal rights..


    No one is saying anything about the unequal gender roles in any other religion or cult...? What about the separation of men and women in Islamic or Jewish traditions (to varying degrees) or the systemic institutionalized gender inequity within the Roman catholic church and papacy for that matter?
    Why attack the one thing that our ancestors got right – the family unit. Can't we just compromise with all you gay folks and just have a civil union and the church can have 'holy matrimony' for traditional couples and religious folks if they absolutely need the whole 'church wedding' – if only for the sake of respecting our past traditions? Is your fight not with these religious institutions and their beliefs, rather than the traditional view of marriage?
    I am an atheist (agnostic maybe? sometimes..lol) but I have a healthy respect for our past traditions simply because it made us what we are today, and that is one of the more successful groups on the planet living a good quality of life. I believe that we should be looking ahead and creating new institutions and policies based on equity for all, but that does not mean dispensing with our history like western version of "the cultural revolution".
    As long as there is freedom of religion we just have to deal with the inherent inequity, and the more antiquated elements, of the ancient belief systems. No one says you MUST get married in some faiths house of worship, if you don't subscribe to their philosophy. Simply get a civil union (like I plan to do, as I am not a member of any religion). These civil unions should be seen as exactly the same as a 'holy union' or whatever they would call it, only that it took place in a public hall rather than at a religious alter.
    Love who you love, and marry who you want, but can't we just hold on to some things that we did right?
    Peace to all!

    January 6, 2014 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  10. Sniffit

    Just more WWJH. Who WOULD Jesus hate? I'll give you a hint, bigots: your list is longer than his.

    January 6, 2014 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  11. skarphace

    jack in NC

    they just don't get it Marriage= a man and a woman period


    No. You just don't get it. DOMA, which was passed in the 90s and defined that marriage was between a man and a woman, was ruled unconsti tutional by the SCOTUS. Therefore, marriage is now defined as between two consenting adults by federal law.

    January 6, 2014 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  12. DashVader

    Someone on here said that the people's votes on the matter must be respected. People voted for slavery and we don't have a problem with the fact that the government ignored their votes. If the majority's vote interferes with the minority's rights, it must be ignored.

    January 6, 2014 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  13. Bubba Ray

    (Unless my religion doesn't allow it for you or I personally disagree with your beliefs.)

    January 6, 2014 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  14. Say it ain't so

    Agree with paul. I can't wait 5 or 10 years where we can do every drug under the sun and marry and sleep with anything and nothing would be off limits. Much like sodom and gomorrah where there were no rules. That sounds like it would be so much fun. I agree with you paul, 100%.

    January 6, 2014 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  15. skarphace


    Yes, well as for as it not mattering or affecting anyone elses life that has never stopped the minority or the majority from imposing its wishes on the others. Otherwise, we would not have seatbelt laws, helmet laws, minimum age of marriage laws, you could just go on an on with all the laws passed because someone felt it was their mission in life to impose their beliefs on everyone else.


    Those are all civil laws, not religious laws, as they have a scientific basis. Explain to me exactly how restricting gay marriage has a scientific basis and you may have a point. The majority cannot impose laws on the minority unless such laws protect the majority. Clearly, seat belt laws, helmet laws, and minimum age of marriage laws protect the majority. How do laws restring gay marriage protect straight couples? Answer: they don't. Therefore, as the SCOTUS has already rules, such laws are unconsti tutional.

    January 6, 2014 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  16. Norman

    sorry religious bigots-this is the case that will guarantee eqaulity for ALL-not just Mormons who believe they will have numerous wives and rule planets when they die!

    January 6, 2014 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  17. Rudy NYC


    I am still waiting for someone to bring a suit saying that a catholic church has to perform a wedding for a non-catholic couple. I've been waiting a long time, but, I'm sure that it will happen real soon now. ... ... The church side of this dicsussion has already been decided. If your church is willing to perform the ceremony, you can get married in your church. This discussion is entirely and only about the legal marriage.

    Give unto Caesar... Hmm. Who said that one?
    Who said it? The same man who called people hypocrites for hiding behind religion for non-religious purposes.

    January 6, 2014 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  18. Kyle

    If every state would change the wording of their law to unite 2 people under the law from "Marriage" to "legal union" the problem would be solved instantly.
    Marriage under the law is COMPLETELY separate from Marriage under God in the church or the equivilent in whichever faith you believe in. Read your religous definition of marriage. Then go look at your states LEGAL DEFINITION of marriage. You will be shocked at the difference.

    Had states not userped the term when they made their laws none of this would ever have been much of an issue.

    January 6, 2014 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  19. Gordo

    This is a well-reasoned deflection by the SCOTUS, either way the Colorado court decides, it will likely end up before the Supreme Court again. At that point, the court can decide to pass on the case – thus guaranteeing marriage equality for all the states in the circuit 10 jurisdiction (Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Kansas). If the SCOTUS were to take on the appeal, its decision would likely be in favor of marriage equality, thus defining for the entire country a guarantee of marriage equality. While on the short term this may seem like a defeat to marriage equality proponents, in the long-term I think it will be a win for the entire country to see marriage equality settled once and for all.

    January 6, 2014 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  20. Silence DoGood

    @BMW214 "It is a Christian Covenant between a Man and Woman and God."
    If I am to get married, how dare you tell me how my marriage is defined. I will believe whatever I want thank you very much. And why don't you go off and believe what you want. And we can even talk about it. But do not legislate it. I wish the Founding Fathers were around to give you a good talking to about Freedom.

    January 6, 2014 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  21. What's Next?

    If homosexuality is a natural sexual orientation and proclivity, where is the line for other proclivities and desires? Pedophiles, necrophiliacs and bestiality folks will all tell you that THEY were born that way, too. So, are they to be given the same "rights" and acceptance?

    January 6, 2014 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  22. skarphace


    What gives the federal government the right to define marriage? It is a Christian Covenant between a Man and Woman and God. This issue is not about marriage it is about taxes and death benefits, being able to make final decisions in case of a health problem. All of these issues are readily addressed in the legal system already. These people just want to adulterate the covenant between a man and woman and God.


    Exactly wrong. Marriage is a civil contract, not a religious contract. Otherwise, Atheists and other non-Christians would not be allowed to get married and divorces would be illegal. There is no covenant with God in any civil contract. The covenant you make with God is between you and your religious leaders and is a separate issue from the civil contract which is marriage. For example, for Jehovah's Witnesses, by religious law they are not allowed to marry outside their faith. However, one Jehovah's Witness can still marry a Christian because marriage is a civil law. Understand?

    January 6, 2014 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  23. silencedogood20

    I support gay marriage, but it is not protected by the constitution. It is a huge tactical mistake to pursue it on those grounds because you will either get an adverse ruling or an opinion based on poor reasoning (good in the short term, bad long term). Considering most people are now moving towards support, its also unnecessary.

    January 6, 2014 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  24. Silence DoGood

    “History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes.”
    -Thomas Jefferson: in letter to Alexander von Humboldt, December 6, 1813

    January 6, 2014 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  25. What's Next?

    If homosexuality is natural, where is the line drawn? What about those who say they were born with natural desires for being with the dead? Children? Animals? Should they receive the same "rights" and acceptance, too?

    January 6, 2014 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23