Nearly 1,000 couples have wed in the two weeks since a judge declared Utah's ban on marriage equality unconstitutional, but a Monday decision from the Supreme Court ordering a halt to same-sex unions pending a state appeal has left those couples in a legal limbo, with many others wondering if they will ever be able to marry in their home state.
The injunction and resulting legal gray area was an expected outcome for some gay couples who married over the last two weeks. It is Utah, after all. “As remarkable and miraculous as it was, we’re still cognizant of the fact that this still is one of the most conservative states in the union,” Michael Ferguson, half of the first gay couple to marry in the state, told the New York Times.
But others expressed profound disappointment, and a sense of uncertainty about what the future holds. Some newly married couples had already started the paperwork for things like employer health benefits and joint adoptions, and now face the prospect of having those changes invalidated. “It’s very disappointing,” said Brandon Mark, who also married in December. “I’m assuming we’re going to get no resolution on the question of whether our marriage is valid until the Supreme Court rules on this issue.”
More on the case from the Times:
Judge Robert J. Shelby’s Dec. 20 ruling striking down Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage may yet be reinstated, and the Supreme Court’s brief order on Monday said only that Judge Shelby’s decision was stayed “pending final disposition of the appeal” to the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, in Denver.
But a final resolution of the case will take time. The appeals court, has set a briefing schedule that concludes in late February, presumably to be followed by arguments before a three-judge panel of the court. Further appeals, to the full court and the Supreme Court, are likely. [...]
In urging the Supreme Court to stay Judge Shelby’s decision, state officials relied on a 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.