Federal judge denies state’s request for stay on gay marriage

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SALT LAKE CITY -- A federal appeals court in Denver is now considering whether to halt same-sex marriages from being performed in Utah, after a judge here denied the state's request to stop them.

At a hearing this morning in U.S. District Court, Judge Robert Shelby denied a motion to stay the marriages, pending an appeal to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Shelby questioned why the state did not bring a motion to stay earlier, like others have in advance of similar rulings.

"It was the Friday before Christmas," Phil Lott, an assistant Utah Attorney General, told the judge, saying they did not have notice the ruling was coming down.

Lott said the decision has created "chaos," with same-sex couples rushing to their county clerk's offices to be married.

"There's great irony in Utah being compelled by the federal government to adopt a definition of  marriage as one man and woman," Lott told the judge. "Now, the government seeks to adopt a different definition."

Lott said allowing the same-sex marriages to continue would cause "irreparable harm" to the state and create further confusion if those marriages were invalidated.

"Is there also irreparable harm when citizens are denied constitutional rights?" Judge Shelby asked.

Peggy Tomsic, an attorney for the couples who sued Utah to overturn Amendment 3, said the state was trying to re-argue what it had already lost when the judge declared it unconstitutional.

"A court requires more than a simple re-argument," she told the judge.

Shelby agreed, denying the state's motion to halt the marriages. In making his ruling, Shelby also admonished county clerks to start issuing licenses to same-sex couples, or they would be breaking the law.

"To the extent it's not clear from the court's ruling, my intent was to find that the laws of Utah that operate to deny same-sex couples the right to marry -- operate in violation of due process," he said.

On Friday, Shelby ruled that Utah's Amendment 3 -- defining marriage as between one man and one woman -- was unconstitutional. The first same-sex marriages were performed within an hour of the ruling coming down, Darcy Goddard, an attorney for the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office, told the judge in court.

In court, Tomsic accused Governor Gary Herbert of creating confusion for the clerks by sending a letter over the weekend, urging them to seek advice from their county attorneys and county commissions before proceeding.

Outside of court, Lott refused to tell FOX 13 if the attorney general's office would instruct county clerks to issue licenses.

Within minutes of Judge Shelby's ruling, the Utah Attorney General's Office filed a motion to stay the marriages within the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. Two previous attempts had been denied by the appeals court, which said the state failed to follow proper procedures.

Judges Holmes and Bacharach with the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ordered lawyers for the gay couples suing to overturn Amendment 3 to have a response to the state's request by 5 p.m.

Their ruling on whether to grant or deny a stay could then come at any time.

Poll: Should same-sex marriages continue in Utah?

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  • Meghan

    Judge Shelby also told county clerks that if they refuse to marry couples, they are breaking the law – a Class A misdemeanor.

  • CJ

    Every one that is fighting against this has an LGBT family member and or friend. How could they willingly deny their loved one (s) the chance to marry?


    its about rights
    LGBT deserve rights too,regardless

    Very Sad because of religion and prejudices,Many still hate because of difference!

  • steven

    But this is Utah! We are above the rules and law. We’re not even a part of these United States. What sorcery is this?!

  • Jase

    No wonder our children don’t take NO for a answer and throw a fit This STATE ( UTAH ) don’t like the LAW so they throw a fit and try to get their way. Great EXAMPLE are they NOT

  • Valerie

    Before Fox new releases a survey regarding what Utah people think. Why don’t they use a survey that includes all Utah people. Do not give me a survey done at BYU. I did not attend BYU, nor do I feel a survey regarding this issue was given out fairly. Be fair Fox news. I count, and so do many others here in this state of UT.

  • Eric Anderson

    Marriage belongs to society, not to government. Society has always decided who can marry and who cannot. That will not change.

    Gays have fought against the idea of “domestic partnership contracts” because the want the M-word to be endorsed by government……which government cannot do. It’s beyond the scope and reach of government.

    I have NO problem with consenting adult citizens signing financial contracts. Are gays “married” now? Only if you think they are. That’s always been the case, and always will be.

    In other words: They got their Domestic Partnership Contracts. They’re no more “married” than they ever were, in any realistic sense of the word. I’m not “married” to my wife just because homosexuals say I am…..and they won’t be “married” because I say so, or don’t say so. They’re “married” in their opinions and in the opinions of anyone who happens to agree with them.

    • shawnthesheep

      You can define marriage any way you want in your own little mind. What matters is equity under the law. The Constitution guarantees it. The rights and responsibilities granted to you under civil marriage laws are not bestowed to you by society.

      BTW, when you say “society,” what you really mean is “religion,” right?

      Does anyone find it ironic that the Governor of Utah, a place that had to change their marriage laws in order to attain statehood, is now complaining about federal authorities changing Utah’s traditional definition of marriage?

  • Eric Anderson

    Polygamists are “married” because they SAY they’re married, and because their spiritual leaders performed a ceremony that they and their fellow religious believers give weight to. They are NOT “married” in the eyes of society, in the larger sense.

    Gays will not be “married” now any more than they were yesterday. But they can (and should) enjoy the same financial and legal opportunities as any “married” couples. I have zero objections to that. But “married”? No. Not to me. Sorry. Fortunately, I’m not charging anything for my opinion, so they can feel free to ignore it, just as I ignore their “marriage.”

  • irisheyez35

    I am not put on this earth to judge…We all answer for our sins. I believe that gay/lesbian acts is sin. But it is not my place to hold that against anyone. The thing that upsets me is that because I dont share in gay/lesbian excitement over this I am viewed as being hateful and a bigot when in reality I am holding to my beliefs. Go ahead and marry…just dont call me a bigot or hater because I dont share the same view and beliefs as you. I have never treated anyone different because of the sexual preferences but I am not going to compromise my beliefs that are rooted in the Bible to please those who are for this or are gay/lesbian.

    • Tiredofbigotry

      If you don’t want to be called a hater or a bigot, then keep your hate and bigotry to yourself. This ruling doesn’t affect your human rights so keep your nose out of it. You and your opinions are not superior. Why do you even think you have a right to voice them when this has nothing to do with your life?

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