US Supreme Court Puts Gay Marriages on Hold in Utah

Image: US Supreme Court Puts Gay Marriages on Hold in Utah Same-sex couples wait in the Salt Lake County clerk's office to request marriage licenses on Dec. 22.

Monday, 06 Jan 2014 11:02 AM

By Newsmax Wires

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The U.S. Supreme Court has put same-sex marriages on hold in Utah while a federal appeals court more fully considers the issue.

The court issued a brief order Monday blocking any new same-sex unions in the state, reported The Associated Press.

The order follows an emergency appeal by the state following the Dec. 20 ruling by U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby that the state's ban on same-sex marriage violates gay and lesbian couples' constitutional rights.

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More than 900 gay and lesbian couples have married since then.

The high court order will remain in effect until the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decides whether to uphold Shelby's ruling.

In papers filed Tuesday with Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the state asked her to overturn court decisions that let the marriages go forward. Sotomayor handles emergency requests from Utah and other Rocky Mountain states.

Nearly two-thirds of Utah's 2.8 million residents are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the official name of the Mormon church, and Mormons dominate the state's legal and political circles.

U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby's decision on Dec. 20 came as a shock to many in the state, which approved the ban on same-sex marriage in 2004.

Peggy Tomsic, the attorney for the same-sex couples who brought the case, calls gay marriage the civil-rights movement of this generation.

Shelby's decision came late on a Friday afternoon and sent people rushing to a county clerk's office in Salt Lake City — about three miles from the headquarters of the Mormon church — for marriage licenses.

The following Monday, 353 more gay and lesbian couples grabbed licenses, some camping out overnight to get in line early the next morning.

After the 10th Circuit refused to halt the ruling, the few county clerks who had refused to issue licenses changed course. Officials say things have slowed down after a run on marriage licenses that started hours after Shelby's decision.

Since then, Gov. Gary Herbert has directed state agencies to comply with Shelby's order, meaning gay couples are eligible for food stamps and welfare, among other benefits. The state Tax Commission said it was looking at changing tax returns to allow same-sex couples to file jointly, although it didn't immediately give assurances that will happen.

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