Supreme Court puts gay marriages on hold in Utah

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One of the first gay couples to marry in Utah. - PHOTO: Facebook

The U.S. Supreme Court on Jan. 6 issued a brief order blocking further same-sex weddings in Utah until an appeals court can review the case.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, in a statement, said, "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."

He continued, "As I have said all along, all Utahns deserve to have this issue resolved through a fair and complete judicial process. 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."

In December, a federal judge ruled that Utah's ban on gay marriages was unconstitutional, clearing the way for about 1,000 same-sex couples to marry in the predominantly Mormon state.

The state requested a stay, seeking to block gay weddings until its appeal could be reviewed by a higher court.

The district court judge denied the stay requests, as did the appeals court.

That prompted the Utah Attorney General's office to turn to the Supreme Court for a stay. The request first went to Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who has jurisdiction for the region.

On Jan. 6, the high court issued a stay, which will remain in effect until the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals can review Utah's appeal.

Chad Griffin of the Human Rights Campaign said in a news release, "Utahns and other Americans have witnessed the joy that marriage has brought to hundreds of loving and committed couples over the past weeks. While it is disappointing that the dreams of many more will be put on hold, we know that in the end justice will be served and no couple will be excluded from this cherished institution.  We still live in two Americans where full equality is within reach in one and another where even basic protections are non-existent.  As the marriage equality map expands, history is on our side and we will not rest until where you live is not a barrier to living your dreams.”

At the American Civil Liberties Union, staff attorney Joshua Block said, "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."