Same-sex marriage will not be recognized in Utah. State officials have decided to invalidate any same-sex marriage performed in Utah before the U.S Supreme Court issued a stay. Utah, a state known for its heavy Mormon influence and traditional values, shocked the nation when a December 20th decision by U.S District Judge Robert Shelby ruled the state’s ban on gay marriage unconstitutional. Over a thousand marriage licenses were issued as jubilant couples rejoiced the judge’s ruling and raced to be married only to find their celebration short-lived. The couples found themselves waiting in legal limbo when the U.S. Supreme Court suspended the order pending a federal appeals court decision.
The justices have not made a decision on the constitutionality of the case or on the ban of gay marriages; they have merely put a hold on any further action until the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals makes a final ruling on the ongoing question of same-sex marriages in Utah. The Denver based court’s decision may have a ripple effect across the nation. The Court of Appeals is scheduled to rule on this issue this year, which means the losing side will not have a final decision until 2015. This leaves the future of same-sex marriage sin question in Utah and across the nation.
The decision was announced today that Utah has invalidated all same-sex marriages performed during the 17-day period between Shelby’s ruling and the Supreme Court’s injunction, according to state officials.
Gay rights advocates are shocked and disappointed with the decision that Utah will not recognize same-sex marriages. Recently married gay couples see the ruling as a dark cloud shadowing the future of gay rights.
Derek Kitchen and his partner Moudi Sbeity, along with two other couples, filed the Utah lawsuit that was the catalyst to the December 20th ruling by Shelby who stated the ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional. The couples now face an uncertain future and can only hope someday they can marry legally.
State officials celebrated Monday’s decision to put Shelby’s ruling on hold, stating it should have been implemented earlier. Two earlier courts denied a plea for a stay.
The order to suspend Shelby’s decision contained no dissents, indicating the justices are not prepared to acknowledge same-sex marriages across the nation and they are hesitant to permit a lower court to hurry along a decision regarding gay marriages.
The Supreme Court’s stay prohibits Utah from issuing marriage licenses for same-sex couples while the state awaits the final decision from the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Utah’s Attorney General Sean Reyes stated his office is evaluating the validity of marriages executed since Judge Shelby’s December 20th decision. Reyes stated his office would not hurry a decision that could impact citizens so deeply.
According to opinion polls conducted over the years, same-sex marriage has been gaining popularity and acceptance. Seventeen states, as well as Washington D.C., allow gay marriage; however 28 states have laws forbidding gay marriage, stating a legal marriage consists of one woman and one man.
Advocates for gay rights want the Supreme Court to overrule state bans and recognize gay marriage as a constitutional right. However, the justices will not be rushed into a decision. They have been clear they prefer to wait until same-sex marriage has become more acceptable before deciding on the constitutionality of gay marriage, thereby avoiding controversy and dispute across the nation.
Last year, same-sex advocates gained two landmark decisions in the Supreme Court, first, married same-sex couples were given equal rights when it came to federal benefits and second, they opened the door for same-sex couples in California to marry. Until the courts decide, Utah will not recognize same-sex marriages.
By Deborah Baran