U.S. Supreme Court halts same-sex marriage in Utah

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SALT LAKE CITY -- The U.S. Supreme Court halted same-sex marriages in Utah while an appeals court considers whether the state's amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman is constitutional.

The full court, in a unanimous order issued Monday morning, temporarily blocked same-sex couples from getting licenses. It also put more than a thousand couples in "legal limbo," Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes said.

"It's unfortunate that many of our citizens have been put into this legal limbo," he said at a news conference Monday. "But we're evaluating their legal status currently."

Reyes said his office was determining if the stay meant that the marriages already performed were invalidated. He took the position that Amendment 3 was back in effect.

"We don't know the answer yet as to the marriages that have taken place already," Reyes said. "There's no precedence, I believe, for this. This is precisely the uncertainty we were trying to avoid."

Governor Gary Herbert's office was also evaluating the full effect of the stay. After a federal judge declared Amendment 3 unconstitutional, the governor ordered state agencies to begin offering services and benefits to same-sex couples who were married.

"The Supreme Court made the correct decision to stay Judge Shelby’s ruling in the Amendment 3 case. Clearly, the stay should have been granted with the original District Court decision in order to have avoided the uncertainty created by this unprecedented change," the governor said in a statement Monday.

Three gay couples sued Utah challenging Amendment 3. In a statement, their attorney, James Magleby, called the stay "obviously disappointing."

"Every day that goes by, same-sex couples and their children are being harmed by not being able to marry and be treated equally. However, this is just a temporary order, and, it is not unusual for the court to stay a decision declaring a state law unconstitutional pending appeal. Importantly, however, this temporary stay has no bearing on who will win on appeal. We look forward to defending Judge Shelby’s decision in the Tenth Circuit," he wrote.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also issued a statement in response to the stay that was granted.

"The action taken by the U.S. Supreme Court placing same-sex marriage on hold in Utah now allows for a more reasoned,  thoughtful, and mutually respectful discussion to take place," said church spokesman Cody Craynor. "Regardless of court rulings that vary across the nation, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints remains firm in its conviction that marriage between a man and a woman is deserving of protection because of its value to society."

Utah asked the U.S. Supreme Court for a stay after five prior requests to halt the marriages were denied. U.S. District Court Judge Robert Shelby declared Amendment 3 unconstitutional, ruling that it violated gay and lesbian couples' right to due process and equal protection.

A FOX 13 survey of same-sex marriage licenses issued by each of the state's 29 county clerks.

A FOX 13 survey of same-sex marriage licenses issued by each of the state's 29 county clerks.

Since that ruling on Dec. 20, 2013, more than a thousand same-sex couples have married in Utah. FOX 13 contacted each of Utah's 29 county clerks. They reported approximately 1,360 marriage licenses were issued to same-sex couples. Salt Lake County issued nearly 800; some counties had no requests.

Cliff Rosky, a University of Utah law professor and the chairman of the board for the gay rights group Equality Utah, worried that during the appeal the state would refuse to recognize the marriages already performed.

"It's important to know that no court in the history of this country has ever retroactively invalidated a marriage that was lawful when it was entered," he said. "There's no question these marriages were legally valid when it was entered."

Brett Tolman, a former U.S. Attorney for Utah who represented the Utah Pride Center in amicus briefs on the cases involving California's Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act, said if Utah refused to recognize the marriages it could trigger new generations of litigation.

"I can almost guarantee there would be a tremendous amount of litigation if the state were to take the position that those marriages, which came as a result of lawfully issued licenses, are now invalid," he said.

The stay puts on hold the issuance of marriage licenses pending the appeal of Amendment 3 to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The Denver-based appeals court has set an expedited schedule for the case; Utah has until Jan. 27 to file its first briefing. Arguments could be heard as soon as March with a ruling shortly thereafter.

Click here to read the order from the Supreme Court

Click here to read a statement from the law firm representing the plaintiffs in that case. [PDF]


  • Brian Michael Owens

    Hey, I’m LDS and I am not against it at all. Do not put everyone in the same category bud. I have different views on this topic and don’t think it is the right of any Church or Government to say who can get married. It is the church’s job to teach not enforce as law. It is not something the government should be in at all.

      • RS

        Sodom and it’s sister city Gamorah have a fosil record that shows mass charring and scorching according to carbonized material C-14 dated matching the time line of lore. I despise westboro baptist church too but the modo referenced on their sign seems accurate (GHF)

  • Rory

    Wise decision I can agree with. Let the suspension cool people off till the court weighs in and hopefully bans future “marriages”.

    • Brian Michael Owens

      Because, Your beliefs are the only ones that count right? You should be able to tell people how to live their lives and that’s that……

      Sounds like you have no respect for others and no respect for the rights of others. It really don’t matter what you and I say in this post but remember that you are a nobody and you don’t get to dictate other peoples lives. Hey, here’s an idea, Move to North Korea since you like to practice dictatorship. Don’t forget to send me a postcard. ;)

      • Kimberley Anne

        The comments section should be one where anyone can express their opinion, free of persecution. Is not the first amendment one that guarantees freedom of speech? How can you claim a stranger has no respect for the rights of others while in the very action of ignoring that first amendment?

    • mikey b

      Not that you care about my opinion. But this is what I believe God feels about the issue

      “We do not believe it just to mingle religious influence with civil government, whereby one religious society is fostered and another proscribed in its spiritual privileges, and the individual rights of its members, as citizens, denied.”


      “We believe that religion is instituted of God; and that men are amenable to him, and to him only, for the exercise of it, unless their religious opinions prompt them to infringe upon the rights and liberties of others; but we do not believe that human law has a right to interfere in prescribing rules of worship to bind the consciences of men, nor dictate forms for public or private devotion; that the civil magistrate should restrain crime, but never control conscience; should punish guilt, but never suppress the freedom of the soul.”

      Personally I believe these statements are inspired by God and answer the question of what role the government should play in the issue.

  • Victoria M Cady

    Ugh this is ridiculous. Protecting Utah “citizens”? Because the hundreds who’ve married since aren’t citizens of Utah?

  • Kent D. Madsen

    Minor set back and expected. Civil rights and equality evolves. I remember the inter-racial and ‘black’ (I know not pc) civil rights movement. Closed minded people just need a push sometimes to see the truth. Be patience. The ‘teens’ will end what the sixties began. Thanks to those who have sacrificed to bring enlightenment.

  • Derek Majors

    The situation at hand is unconstitutional. They are bringing in religion and politics into the lives of people who wanna share their lives together. Who are they to say who and who cannot get married? I’m hoping that the government and the religious leaders of this country TRY overpowering the people of this state and this country’s citizens!!! WE THE PEOPLE have the right to love who we want, when we want, and how we want!!! And the day WILL come when the people of this nation step up and take back what is rightfully ours!!!

    • Kandace

      I agree with you Derek…The government is also trying 2 disarm citizens so we can no longer protect ourselves!

      “The greatest danger to American freedom is a government that ignores the Constitution.”
      Thomas Jefferson
      Third President of the United States

      • kyle

        Except that was then and this is now. A lot of people have changed their views since it was banned. Hell I don’t think it was even a fair decision. I didn’t get to vote due to my age. Why did others get to decide my faith and hundred of others?
        Can you tell me that?

      • Bish Chan

        The people also voted to ban inter-racial marriage. Half the laws that the public vote to pass do not make it past the courts. That is how it works in a constitutional republic. The people cannot always get their way as long as there is a constitution and constitutional law that may conflict and trump them.


    I am really disappointed it was pass the buck let Denver decide!

    Politics should not be involved.!


    Too bad preĵudice continues in today’s society!

  • mikey b

    Thats to bad

    “We do not believe it just to mingle religious influence with civil government, whereby one religious society is fostered and another proscribed in its spiritual privileges, and the individual rights of its members, as citizens, denied.”- LDS Cannonised Modern Revelation

  • Joe

    In a way this minor set back in Utah equality is only going to benefit the rest of the country when the Supreme court makes its ruling for equality for the whole country!

  • jo

    This is about Democracy!!! Utah voters voted against this and some judge decided our vote did not matter and overturned it does that not matter to anyone??????

    • Kevin Scott

      In the Constitution, all laws, when challenged, are evaluated in light of what is in the Constitution as well as previous Supreme Court challenges, whether they come from legislatures or the vote of the people. The people of Utah clearly erred, voting for something that trampled the rights of minorities. What if the people of Massachusetts all voted to not recognize LDS Temple marriages (like some foreign countries). Should the US Constitution back them up simply because they ganged up on the LDS Church? Re-read your Civics 101 textbook and don’t blindly follow people who whine “but we voted!”. Thank you.

      • Michael Haskins

        Thank you, Kevin. I agree. It is refreshing to see educated comments.

        Thomas Jefferson said:

        “All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will, to be rightful, must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal laws must protect, and to violate which would be oppression.”

      • dcsouthgw

        Amendments are the basis for judging laws, hence the reason they passed this as an amendment. This was never about denying rights or privileges. It was about standing for a moral principle. In the end we don’t answer just to each other, but to God.

    • RS

      I agree. The statements are made that in 10 years time a lot has changed… and GM should be allowed. NAHH! How bout we just take it back to the ballot box and let the people of Utah re-validate the standing prop 3 affirmation of 1 man and 1 woman equate marriage. Anything else is cohabitation.

  • Eric Anderson

    This isn’t a decision “for” or “against” Utah. Merely an indication that they will probably hear the case, and rule one way or the other. Once and for all.

    That’s good.

  • Kevin Scott

    Amazing. And predictible. Our Governor stands firmly with George Wallace in the annals of history for valuing “states rights” above human rights. They’re both in the Constitution, but one always trumps the other. So in the meantime kiss that 2 million taxpayer dollars goodbye. Maybe they should hold a bake sale to raise 2 million.

  • Paul Willardson

    Since child abusers, wife beaters, and convicted murderers are all afforded the right to marry, I have a hard time understanding what the state’s reasoning is in denying me, a law abiding, tax paying citizen, that same right.

  • Christopher Beebe

    I think the Court made a mistake – but no big deal, it’s just a small setback on the way to marriage equality for all. And as for the $2 million it will cost Utah to defend its definition of marriage: I say, take that money, help the poor and needy, feed the starving, clean up the air, improve mass transit, or help still-developing countries.

  • Cookie

    I really do not understand how people can be so lowly and bothered by other people’s life styles. Why don’t we focus on those who are actually hurting other people in real ways; someone bruising your comfort zone from their own separate existence is a testament to your inability to learn, love, accept, and worry about yourself. I do not appreciate the way some people act or their opinions but it is not my place to enforce their life. It is my place to handle how I act, treat other human beings, and handle lessons maturely in my life, and stand up for human rights. Our country was built on the pursuit of happiness and civil liberties, and the emphasis of the concept that impeding upon freedoms and/or giving up liberties to compensate for a sense of security mentally, physically, or emotionally is a slippery slope… If you can take away someone else’s rights, don’t be surprised and aghast when your rights are taken, think about that. And we’ve already come a long ways away from what founding Americans started… And it’s really disappointing… Anyways, what it boils down to is I believe everyone has the right to freedom of choice, belief, and speech, but where all of that has a line drawn is when you start affecting or hurting other people, and making decisions for them that aren’t yours to make for effecting you in any way other than that they exist. There will always be people out there that are different from you and maybe make you feel uncomfortable. There are billions of people in this world that probably think you are the odd one out.There is not one way of living, one culture, one belief system, and one mindset. It is so simple minded to assume and try to enforce that. It’s an important part of life and usually a learning experience in some way for you or them in a “grand scheme” or, how a lot of people would think of “god’s plan”. It is not your place to dictate their lives. Especially their love lives, especially when they are not hurting anyone or anything except for your ego and belief system. You are not god, none of us are, and if god exists, let him have final judgement like you preach. In the end, he/she truly knows what’s in your heart and what you’ve done for yourself and others, and just going to church and “preaching your faith” isn’t going to get you very far in the big picture. Actions of love and truth will.

  • Michael Haskins

    The Tyrrany of the Majority (Alexix de Toqueville 1851) continues – espcially in a theocracy like Utah.

    Here is what Thomas Jefferson said:

    “I am certainly not an advocate for frequent and untried changes in laws and constitutions. I think moderate imperfections had better be borne with; because, when once known, we accommodate ourselves to them, and find practical means of correcting their ill effects. But I know also, that laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy, as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.” —Thomas Jefferson

    Thomas Jefferson also said: “All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will, to be rightful, must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal laws must protect, and to violate which would be oppression.”

    The “checks and balances” engineered into the US Constitution is to block the Tyrrany of the Majority from unconstitutionally harming the rights of the minority. (oppression)

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