State of Utah stops issuing same-sex marriage licenses pending appeal
Stay to remain in place until 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver renders decision
The State of Utah has granted the stay requested by the State of Utah, effectively putting same sex marriage on hold in Utah. An individual Federal District Court had decided, against the will of the voters of Utah, to change the definition of marriage. The Supreme Court said the stay would be in place until the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver makes a decision on Utah's appeal.
"Utah's Office of the Attorney General is carefully evaluating the legal status of the marriages that were performed since the District Court's decision and will not rush to a decision that impacts Utah citizens so profoundly," Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes said.
The state's stay application was filed with Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who referred it to the whole court. Sotomayor is assigned to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which rejected Utah's request for a stay three times.
The current decision means clerks in Utah no longer will be allowed to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. It is not immediately clear what the order means for couples who have already been declared to be married, based upon the Federal District Courts decision to oppose the direction of the voters of Utah that marriage only be between one man and one woman.
Reyes met briefly with reporters to say that this was the "uncertainty" the state hoped to avoid with a stay. "We don't know the answer yet as to marriages already performed," Reyes said. "There is not clear legal precedent for this particular situation."
Currently assisted by Boise attorney Monte N. Stewart, Utah has three weeks to file its initial briefs with the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. Outside counsel is expected to assist with that effort, which could cost as much as $2 million. Firms interested must submit applications by Tuesday.
In the meantime, Utah Governor Gary Herbert praised the Supreme Court's order as the "correct decision."
"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," Herbert said in a statement. "As I have said all along, all Utahans 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."
Most agree that the issue is based on the constitutional law and the right of a state to determine this issue. "Everyone in America should be concerned to see how easily activist judges can cavalierly toss out the will of overwhelming majorities of legislators and voters alike," Brian Brown, president of The National Organization for Marriage says. "It's becoming increasingly clear that the people of America need to reclaim their sovereignty and amend the U.S. Constitution to protect marriage as the union of one man and one woman."
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