Same-sex marriages in Utah were halted Monday (Jan. 6) by U.S. Supreme Court justices while the state appeals a lower court’s ruling allowing such unions.
The Supreme Court released a brief statement Monday saying it ruled to put the marriages on hold in order to “minimize the enormous disruption to the state and its citizens of potentially having to ‘unwind’ thousands of same-sex marriages.” Same-sex couples in the state began marrying in late December after U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby overturned the state’s 2004 ban on same-sex marriage. Since Shelby’s ruling on Dec. 20, over 900 same-sex couples have married in Utah.
The high court’s order will remain in effect as the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reviews Utah’s challenge against Shelby’s previous ruling. Shelby said in his ruling that the 2004 ban on same-sex marriage, approved by 66 percent of voters, was unconstitutional because it violated the U.S. Constitution’s 14th amendment rights to equal protection and due process. The state immediately requested a stay in the ruling from Shelby and the 10th Circuit, but was denied by both and therefore forced to go to the highest court to request a halt.
The request for a stay was initially handed to Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who oversees appeals jurisdiction for Utah and surrounding states. Due to the immensity of the request, Sotomayor turned the decision over to the entire justice panel for consideration.