Just last month, a federal court judge in Utah ruled against a ban on same-sex marriage. The ruling was met with mixed views and an appeal for a stay by the state. When the judge refused to overturn his decision, the state took its case to the Supreme Court. While the Supreme Court’s decision is pending, Utah has halted same-sex marriage.
This is causing problems for around 1,000 couples who married or gained a license to marry after the initial decision. The attorney general for the state has explained that these couples now sit in a limbo to find out whether their marriages are truly valid or not. Should the Supreme Court make a decision in favor of the appeal, the marriages will not be legal.
There are no signs of how the justices of the Supreme Court will rule. In June 2013, they ruled that unions must be recognized in any state where same-sex marriage is legal. This meant the couples would receive state benefits given to all married couples. It was a major turning point for LBG couples around the United States. However, the justices failed to answer one important question: Is it unconstitutional for states to ban same-sex marriage?
The arguments for and against same-sex marriage in Utah started last month. Judge Robert J. Shelby ruled against voters, who believed marriage was “between a man and a woman.” Judge Shelby announced that denying marriage to same-sex couples was against the Constitution, which guarantees equal protection.
The Supreme Court is sending the decision back to the lower courts, wanting them to make the decision. Until then, the Supreme Court has decided that Utah must halt all same-sex marriages until a decision has been made. This hold is only on marriages within the state of Utah, and does not affect any other state that allows same-sex marriage.
Gov. Gary Herbert announced that the decision of the court was the right one. He wants to “defend the position of the people of Utah.”
However, this leads to the question of how those who have already married or have marriage licenses will be affected. When Judge Shelby was asked to reconsider his decision, many clerk’s offices stopped issuing the marriage licenses due to the knock-on effect overturning the decision could have. Now around 1,000 licenses have been issued and some of those couples have married.
Attorney General Sean Reyes cannot yet confirm the decision of the state should the ruling be overturned. He explained that without legal precedence, it is difficult to announce a decision as of yet. It was the reason for asking for a stay after the initial decision.
The appeals panel is now looking into the decision and should make a decision within the next few weeks. This decision could affect more than those in Utah though. The appeals court, based in Denver, has jurisdiction over Wyoming, Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico and Colorado. For the time being, same-sex marriage has been halted in Utah while the Supreme Court and appeals courts make a decision.
By Alexandria Ingham