Supreme Court blocks Utah marriage equality ruling

The high court ordered a stop to all same-sex unions being performed pending the state's appeal

Published January 6, 2014 5:07PM (EST)

                                                                                                  (AP Photo/Mathew Sumner)
(AP Photo/Mathew Sumner)

In a Monday decision issued without any explanation, the Supreme Court ordered a stop to all same-sex unions in Utah pending an appeal of a lower court ruling striking down the state's ban on marriage equality.

The high court action comes two weeks after Federal District Court Judge Robert Shelby (unsurprisingly) refused to stay his own decision declaring the law unconstitutional, as well as the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit also rejecting the state's request.

The state appealed Shelby's decision and asked for a stay using the bizarre argument that allowing gay couples to get married while the state appeals the decision would hurt gay couples. A stay of the order would "minimize the enormous disruption to the state and its citizens of potentially having to ‘unwind’ thousands of same-sex marriages,” according to state attorneys.

More from the New York Times:

In urging the Supreme Court to stay Judge Shelby’s decision, state officials relied on the second same-sex marriage decision issued by the Supreme Court in June, United States v. Windsor, though the officials conceded that the ruling offered support to both sides in their case.

The Windsor decision struck down the part of the Defense of Marriage Act that denied federal benefits to married same-sex couples in states that allowed such unions. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for a five-justice majority, grounded his decision partly in federalism principles, saying the regulation of marriage was primarily a matter for the states.

Utah’s brief relied on that part of the Windsor ruling, saying it supported the right of voters in Utah to define who was entitled to marry in the state. But the brief also acknowledged that Justice Kennedy had expressed concern about the harm caused to the children of gay and lesbian couples by laws that demean them.




By Katie McDonough

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at

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Equal Marriage Gay Rights Lgbt Rights Marriage Equality Utah