Supreme Court Halts Same-Sex Marriage in Utah (For Now)

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The Supreme Court handed down an order on Monday that placed same-sex marriage on hold in Utah, at least temporarily.


The high court issued a stay that prevents new marriages while a federal appeals court takes up the case. Utah requested the stay after a U.S. District Court judge ruled last month that the state’s ban on gay marriages violated the Constitution’s equal protection clauses.

The news is disappointing for same-sex couples wishing to wed in Utah. Since lower court’s ruling on Dec. 20, more than 900 gay and lesbian couples have married, according to the AP. Before the stay, Utah was the 18th state, in addition to Washington, D.C., to allow same-sex marriage.

But the Supreme Court’s ruling is not necessarily a death knell for gay marriage in Utah. Justice Sonia Sotomayor referred the stay request to all justice, who handed down a brief order that expressed no opinions about case itself. Now, the case will be decided by the Denver-based 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which has twice previously declined to grant Utah’s request to stop same-sex marriages.

Voters in conservative Utah implemented a ban on same-sex marriage through an amendment to the state’s constitution in 2004.

No matter what the 10th Circuit decides, the Utah case could once again bring the issue of same-sex marriage to the Supreme Court. Last summer, justices ruled that the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as between one man and one woman, was unconstitutional.

But it also passed up the chance to make a broader ruling on the issue of same-sex marriage. It allowed to stand a federal judge’s decision that California’s gay-marriage ban, known as Proposition 8, was unconstitutional. In a 5-4 ruling, the the court said that supporters of Proposition 8 did not have the legal standing to bring their case.


Jordan Fabian is Fusion's politics editor, writing about campaigns, Congress, immigration, and more. When he's not working, you can find him at the ice rink or at home with his wife, Melissa.