Supreme Court halts gay marriage in Utah at least temporarily

Isaac Troyo (L) and his partner Jed Mecham get married at the Salt Lake County Government Building in Salt Lake City, Utah, December 23, 2013. Credit: Reuters
Isaac Troyo (L) and his partner Jed Mecham get married at the Salt Lake County Government Building in Salt Lake City, Utah, December 23, 2013. Credit: Reuters

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday halted same-sex marriages in Utah – permitted for less than three weeks – while the state appeals a lower-court ruling legalizing them, as the justices again left their imprint on the debate over gay nuptials.

The high court granted a request from state officials appealing a federal judge’s Dec. 20 ruling that had allowed same-sex weddings to go ahead in the heavily Mormon state.

The action by the court means that gay weddings in the state are on hold for now while the case is appealed to the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Hundreds of gay couples in Utah have received marriage licenses since the ruling by U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby.

The stay created uncertainty about the legal status of the roughly 1,000 same-sex marriages that have taken place so far.

Sean Reyes, Utah’s attorney general, told reporters in Salt Lake City that the state is not yet certain whether the stay invalidates existing marriages.

“This is precisely the uncertainty that we were hoping to avoid,” Reyes said. “It’s unfortunate that many Utah citizens have been put into this legal limbo.”

Gary Herbert, Utah’s Republican governor, said Shelby should have stayed his ruling, as officials had requested. The appeals court also declined to stay the decision, which prompted the state’s emergency application to the high court.

“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,” Herbert said in a statement.

The Supreme Court’s action on Monday was only on the matter of whether there should be a stay of Shelby’s ruling. The high court’s order was two sentences long, with no justices writing individual opinions indicating where they might stand on the merits of the case.

But the fact the court granted the stay was enough to put the spotlight on where the justices stand on gay marriage six months after their two high-profile decisions on the matter.

One ruling struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a federal law that denied federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples. The other paved the way for gay marriage to resume in California.

In both cases, the court avoided making any sweeping pronouncements about a right to gay marriage in the United States.

The appeals court has already agreed to hear the Utah case on an expedited schedule, with a February 25 deadline for court papers.

Terry Henry, a Utah special education teacher who took advantage of Shelby’s decision to marry Penny Kirby, said she was surprised by the decision to grant a stay.

“The world seems a little less stable today,” Henry said.

Henry, 47, added that she wonders what impact the stay might have on her newly minted family’s rights. Having a marriage license allowed Henry to add the unemployed Kirby, 51, to her work-based health insurance just last week.

‘AN AFFRONT’

Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, which opposes gay marriage, characterized Monday’s high court action as a repudiation of Shelby’s decision.

“The actions of this activist judge are an affront to the rule of law and the sovereign rights of the people of Utah to define marriage,” he said in a statement.

Gay marriage supporters including the American Civil Liberties Union sought to downplay the high court’s action.

“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,” ACLU lawyer Joshua Block said in a statement.

Utah become the 18th state – at least temporarily – where gay marriage was permitted when Shelby sided with three same-sex couples in their lawsuit challenging a voter-passed amendment to the Utah state constitution that defined marriage as exclusively between a man and a woman.

Little more than a decade ago, none of the 50 U.S. states recognized same-sex marriage. Since then, attitudes have changed rapidly in some parts of the country.

At the time of the Supreme Court rulings in June, only 12 states and the District of Columbia recognized gay marriage. Since then, more states have followed, some via legislative action and others due to court rulings. Hawaii, Illinois and New Mexico are the most recent states where gay marriage has become legal.

Shelby’s decision came as a shock to many of Utah’s 2.8 million residents, nearly two-thirds of whom are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Mormon doctrine states that sexual relations outside opposite-sex marriage are contrary to the will of God.

Utah’s stay application relied in part on the high court’s June decision in United States v. Windsor, which, although it struck down DOMA, also said the definition of marriage was largely a matter of state law.

In the Windsor case, in which the court was split 5-4, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority that the federal law violated the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection.

 



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

OkCupid admits to Facebook-style experimenting on customers

By Sarah McBrideSAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - OkCupid, a top U.S. matchmaking website, intentionally mismatched users to test its technology, the IAC/InterActive Corp service said on…

Local

MTA fares still increasing 4 percent in newly…

The agency said the 4 percent increases, previously announced in December, will remain steady even as the MTA deals with increasing labor costs.

Local

De Blasio, Bratton defend city's efforts after Eric…

Mayor Bill de Blasio justified the city's response to the death of Eric Garner, a Staten Island man who died while in police custody earlier this month.

National

PHOTO: New Zealand Heral uses wrong image to…

The New Zealand Herald made a terrible mistake of using the wrong image to illustrate the tragic death of Staff Sergeant Guy Boyland – a New Zealand-born Israeli soldier who…

Movies

Interview: Brendan Gleeson on the way 'Calvary' depicts…

Brendan Gleeson talks about how his new film "Calvary" began over drinks and how his character here is the opposite of the lead in "The Guard."

Movies

'Get on Up' producer Mick Jagger on the…

Mick Jagger, a producer on the James Brown biopic "Get on Up," talks about the time had to tell the singer some bad news and his favorite JB record.

Television

'Glee' star Lea Michele to appear on 'Sons…

"Glee" star Lea Michele has been confirmed as a guest star in the final season of "Sons of Anarchy."

Television

TV watch list, Monday, July 28: 'The Bachelorette'…

See Andi Dorfman make her big choice on tonight's 'Bachelorette' finale.

NFL

Larry Donnell has inside track in Giants tight…

Little-known Larry Donnell of Grambling State currently has the inside track, as the second-year player has received the bulk of the first-team reps.

NFL

Computer to Jets: Start Michael Vick over Geno…

Jets general manager John Idzik says the choice of who starts between second-year quarterback Geno Smith and veteran Michael Vick will be a “Jets decision.”

MLB

Yankees looking to trade for Josh Willingham: Report

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Sunday the Yankees are interested in Twins outfielder Josh Willingham.

MLB

Joe Torre: I'm in Hall of Fame because…

Joe Torre spent 18 years putting together a near Hall of Fame career as a player. But it was the 12 years he spent as…

Travel

Glasgow: Hey, hey, the gangs aren't here

This European city has done a good job getting rid of its more violent residents and revitalizing with artists.

Education

Babson College tops list of best colleges for…

Money magazine has just released its inaugural list of "The Best Colleges for Your Money" -- and the answers have surprised many. Babson College, which…

Education

NYC teens learn how to develop apps during…

Through a program sponsored by CampInteractive, the high schoolers designed their own community-focused apps.

Tech

The Ministry of Silly Walks app is both…

Monty Python have dug into their back catalogue for cash-ins once more, but with the Ministry of Silly Walks app, they've made something that's fun too.