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Same-sex marriage ruling catches conservative Utah off guard

Acting AG Brian Tarbet plans bring a stay motion to the Judge at 9 a.m. on Monday. If the judge doesn't immediately rule, state officials will ask the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to grant the stay and stop same-sex marriages while it appeals the ruling.
Saturday, December 21, 2013
Kim Raff, APChris Serrano, left, and Clifton Webb kiss after being married, as people wait in line to get licenses outside of the marriage division of the Salt Lake County Clerk's Office in Salt Lake City, Friday, Dec. 20, 2013.

Kim Raff, AP
Chris Serrano, left, and Clifton Webb kiss after being married, as people wait in line to get licenses outside of the marriage division of the Salt Lake County Clerk’s Office in Salt Lake City, Friday, Dec. 20, 2013.

SALT LAKE CITY — A day after a judge’s surprise ruling overturned Utah’s same-sex marriage ban, at least one county clerk intended to open early Saturday to issue licenses.

About 40 minutes north of Salt Lake City, about 300 hundred people showed up at the Weber County Clerk’s Office on Saturday afternoon but were later turned away without marriage licenses.

Clerk Ricky Hatch apologized and said that county officials had told him that opening for special circumstances may violate constitutional guarantees of equal protection. Hatch told The Associated Press he was also told that the county’s standard security requirements were not in place for a Saturday opening.

Kim Raff, APCouples Natalie Dicou, left, and Nichole Christensen, middle left, and James Goodman, middle right, and Jeffrey Gomez, right, wait in line to get a marriage license at the Salt Lake County Clerk's Office in Salt Lake City on Friday, Dec. 20, 2013.

Kim Raff, AP
Couples Natalie Dicou, left, and Nichole Christensen, middle left, and James Goodman, middle right, and Jeffrey Gomez, right, wait in line to get a marriage license at the Salt Lake County Clerk’s Office in Salt Lake City on Friday, Dec. 20, 2013.

Kim Raff, APKody Partridge, left, and Laurie Wood celebrate while applying for a marriage license at the Salt Lake County Clerk's Office in Salt Lake City on Friday, Dec. 20, 2013.

Kim Raff, AP
Kody Partridge, left, and Laurie Wood celebrate while applying for a marriage license at the Salt Lake County Clerk’s Office in Salt Lake City on Friday, Dec. 20, 2013.

Kim RaffSamantha Christensen, left, and Elise Larsen apply for a marriage license in the Salt Lake County Clerk's Office in Salt Lake City on Friday, Dec. 20, 2013.

Kim Raff< AP
Samantha Christensen, left, and Elise Larsen apply for a marriage license in the Salt Lake County Clerk’s Office in Salt Lake City on Friday, Dec. 20, 2013.

The confusion Saturday and reports of other crowds scrambling to find an open office illustrated how gay marriage caught many in Utah off guard.

On Friday, more than 100 couples rushed to wed in Salt Lake County shortly after the ruling was released. State officials slamm ed the decision and moved to stop licenses from being issued.

The state has given notice that it will appeal the ruling and has asked for an emergency stay to stop gay couples from getting marriage licenses. But legal experts say that even if a stay is granted, the licenses that have already been issued will likely still be valid.

For now, a state considered as one of the most conservative in the nation has joined the likes of California and New York to become the 18th state where same-sex couples can legally wed.

Utah is home to the Mormon church, which was one of the leading forces behind California’s short-lived ban on same-sex marriage, Proposition 8, which voters approved in 2008.

“For something like this to happen in Utah is mind-boggling,” Nathan London said Saturday as he and his boyfriend planned their wedding. “I’m sure they’re going to fight it tooth-and-nail.”

The 28-year-old from Cottonwood Heights and 34-year-old Alan Britton were among the dozens of waiting couples turned away in Salt Lake City on Friday even though the county clerk’s office stayed open for an extra two hours and issued licenses to more than a hundred couples after U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby’s ruling.

London and Britton said they planned to spend the weekend finding wedding rings. London said they would return around 6 a.m. Monday to wait for a license and marry “while we still can.”

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, a Republican, said in a statement Saturday that the ruling “has created a chaotic situation” in the state. He urged Shelby to grant a motion to stay the decision until the state’s appeal can be heard.

Acting Attorney General Brian Tarbet said his office would bring the stay motion to Shelby by 9 a.m. on Monday. If the judge doesn’t immediately rule, state officials would also ask the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to grant the stay.

Shelby, a recent appointee by President Barack Obama, said Uta h’s ban violated the constitutional rights of gay couples and ruled that Utah failed to show that allowing same-sex marriages would affect other marriages in any way. GOP Sen. Orrin Hatch recommended Shelby for appointment in 2011.

Carl Tobias, a constitutional law professor at Virginia’s University of Richmond who has tracked legal battles for gay marriage, said Saturday that Shelby’s ruling was “fairly strong” and the judge seemed to indicate he didn’t think the state had a good case.

Tobias guessed if an emergency stay is granted, it could come as early as Monday or Tuesday and stop the gay couples from getting licenses.

As the appeal plays out, he said a final decision on gay marriage in Utah is at least months down the road.

Clifford Rosky, a law professor at the University of Utah and board chairman with Equality Utah, said that until there is a stay – if there is one – Utah is obligated to continue issuing licenses to same-sex couples.

“Any county clerk who refuses to do so is violating a federal court order, and could be held in contempt of court,” Rosky wrote in an email late Friday.

As news of the ruling spread Friday, a surge of couples descended on the Salt Lake County clerk’s office to secure marriage licenses, waiting in line by the dozens and getting married on the spot by the mayor and ministers. Couples and their loved ones broke out in tears and cheers as their ceremonies were completed.

In southwest Utah, two gay couples received marriage licenses from the Washington County clerk’s office before it closed Friday, according to The Spectrum of St. George.

Local clerks in other areas waited to hear from county attorneys before issuing licenses.

Hatch said the Weber County attorney’s office did not tell them until late Friday night that they could issue the license.

At the Utah County clerk’s office in Provo, several same-sex couples were turned away on Friday.

Arl ene Arnold, 60, said she and her partner of 20 years rushed over but were denied a license.

“I was infuriated,” Arnold said Friday. “And thought, as I watched the young, heterosexual couples sitting there, I thought, ‘How does it feel to have straight privilege?’”

Arnold still said it was “history in the making.”

“I didn’t think in my lifetime I would ever see same-sex marriage approved in Utah,” she said.

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86 more reader comments:

  1. Aww, that’s awesome :D Yay, love! <3

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 12:10am
  2. Almost proud to be a Utahan

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 12:11am
  3. Utah failed just like the proponents of Prop.8 did because they failed to demonstrate to the court how two strangers of the same sex marrying has anything to do with them.

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 12:11am
  4. However, we here in Utah face a difficult road, being the Mormon church and all the money they can funnel into this. Prop 8 recieved funding from the Mormon church but now this "disease" is invading their homeland. I am a gay male btw and have been with my partner for many years.

    Replied on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 12:45am
  5. The Mormon church can bitch and pour all its money and won't change the long term outcome. 5 justices on the US Supreme Court have already made their positions on same sex marriage. Your state lost.

    Replied on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 12:59am
  6. I don't understand how they lost.... I'm pretty sure marriage equality in Utah is a win.

    Replied on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 1:30am
  7. That is what I was saying. The state of Utah lost the battle in preventing gays from marrying.

    Replied on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 1:43am
  8. I was pleasantly surprised by the ruling.

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 12:12am
  9. I don’t get the problem with letting people marry who they love.

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 12:13am
  10. because they think they can start a family, but fail, and they're "children" aren't raised well. If kids, and coming out of the closet isn't involved , than I got no problem

    Replied on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 12:40am
  11. Debra , I feel the same way but religion always keeps hate and bigotry alive and well.. Congratulations to this beautiful couple that are so in love :>)

    Replied on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 12:41am
  12. that is the most hilarious joke of a statement I have ever heard..... LMAO!!! HAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAA! I'm rolling on the floor laughing at this freak!

    Replied on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 12:42am
  13. "If kids, and coming out of the closet isn't involved , than I got no problem". YOu sir can go fuck yourself.

    Replied on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 1:27am
  14. Debra Diroll, it seems simple enough. Surprising so many people take offense.

    Replied on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 1:41am
  15. there are many hetterosexuals who fail at parenting there are homosexuals who are great parents Harrisons point is invalid

    Replied on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 1:46am
  16. Harrison Nabors does not have a point.

    Replied on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 3:15am
  17. some people are just petty and mean...you would think everyone would support mutual love, respect and fidelity no matter what. I wish all married couples in the world all the happiness.

    Replied on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 9:36am
  18. The Mormons must be pissed! I think it’s great. I know the Mormon church put a truckload of money behind prop 8, just another religious organization trying to cram their beliefs down everyone else’s throats! For those who have been married…congratulations and many blessings!

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 12:16am
  19. Yes yes Yes

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 12:17am
  20. Waiting for Louisiana to do.something.

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 12:20am
  21. Goes to show that there is hope for majority religious states. Maybe there is hope for louisiana!

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 12:20am
  22. And Indiana! :)

    Replied on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 10:39am
  23. the one dude looks like my brother, haha, never know, mom always figured, ???

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 12:20am
  24. Congrats Utah….

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 12:21am
  25. *tearful applause*

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 12:27am
  26. It sure did. I live in SLC, Ut and oh what a shock.

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 12:36am
  27. I’m so happy for you all !! I recently got married and I know how happy you feel… Congratulations from New Jersey

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 12:37am
  28. Equal rights for ALL people, not just the flock of your cult (insert name of any religion in place of cult).

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 12:37am
  29. Stfu the mormon religion is not a cult idiot!

    Replied on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 9:29am
  30. All those who were turned away yesterday and today, I really hope get their licenses.

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 12:39am
  31. woohooooo UTAH! CONGRATULATIONS!

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 12:44am
  32. I’m in Louisiana also. I hope someday soon it passes here. And I can eventually find me another good man to marry

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 12:50am
  33. Actually animals do mate with the same sex. Homosexuality exists in the animal kingdom as well. Homophobia only exists among humans.

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 12:51am
  34. Your right Ricky I seen a documentary on Animal planet

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 12:52am
  35. With the “church” so politically involved, this is why churches need to be taxed. Otherwise stay out of peoples choices.

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 12:53am
  36. So happy for you Utah!

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 12:59am
  37. Anyone here available to be my partner so i cud enjoy this privelege…

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 1:02am
  38. I already anticipate the Supreme Court case.

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 1:15am
  39. Donnie you’re a bigot. I’m guessing interracial marriage makes you sick also

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 1:16am
  40. Awwww

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 1:16am
  41. YAY for Utah now lets get Idaho

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 1:24am
  42. I’m a white Christian moderate Republican that is 1000% for equal rights for all people. It’s very sad that many Christians use the bible to spew hate. I want to know how many of those preaching the bible also refrain from eating shellfish and pork. How about birth control .. That’s a sin so do you tell young people to not practice safe sex? I’d much rather have a loving gay couple living next door than a miserable man and woman

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 1:31am
  43. ♥ conquers all!

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 1:34am
  44. I think it’s hilarious for the H8ers to have marriage equality the same year as California.

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 1:35am
  45. Take that LDS anal retentive jerks!

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 1:37am
  46. I think it caught the nation off guard. Lol

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 1:38am
  47. Harrison your FB timeline explains all any of us need to know about you. You post a picture of Hitler.. I know its suppose to be humorous pic but sorry nothing funny about a guy responsible for millions of deaths. Shows your true colors.

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 1:40am
  48. Straight person for human rights
    Even if marriage is a religious thing everyone is entitled to define their own religion and marriage exists in every religion. including native american religion who had same sex marriage before the European’s took over.

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 1:56am
  49. Last word since you were removed if you can read this…. adam and eve doesnt matter, biblical tredition woman were still property and were baught, marriage was not about love. things change and things have changed by woman no longer being property the definition was already changed, tradition was already changed
    and in america, native tradition was same sex unions so your tradition point is really invalid.
    I might not be able to change your thoughts but its not up to you or religion since christianity isnt the only religion that exists.

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 2:07am
  50. Stupid religious fucks w/ “oh same sex marriage is wrong” shut the fuck up. love has no gender. mind your own fucking business jesus freak

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 2:07am
  51. awww why did you remove him? we were winning the argument couldnt you have waited till it was done?

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 2:10am
  52. I hope there are some couples celebrating their marriage out in view of mormon headquarters.

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 2:38am
  53. We defeated those bigots only 5 years after they passed Prop 8 in California.

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 2:42am
  54. “The fact of the matter is, it doesn’t matter whether or not you think homosexuality is a sin. Let me say that again. It does not matter if you think homosexuality is a sin, or if you think it is simply another expression of human love. It doesn’t matter. Why doesn’t it matter? Because people are dying. Kids are literally killing themselves because they are so tired of being rejected and dehumanized that they feel their only option left is to end their life. As a Youth Pastor, this makes me physically ill. And as a human, it should make you feel the same way.”

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 2:44am
  55. Congrats….Congrats….Congrats!!!!! xxoo

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 3:13am
  56. utah wants to take away the same sex marriage allowance we got last night. sign this to help keep it please http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/let-it-stand-governor.fb41?source=s.icn.fb&r_by=9709015

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 3:21am
  57. The Anti Gay GOP will fight us to the end and we must fight for our rights as LGBT Americans!!

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 3:36am
  58. Wonder where all the Mormons are gonna go to now??? LOL

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 3:46am
  59. Congrats Utah !!!!

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 3:58am
  60. Hope lgbt viet nam!

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 4:04am
  61. Correction , Science catches Republicans off guard.

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 4:10am
  62. Their magic panties must be all in a bunch now… LOL

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 4:27am
  63. NEATHER DID JESUS……….

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 4:34am
  64. …loving this…

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 4:38am
  65. Awww poor cry baby’s. Go suck on momma s teat and shut up!!

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 4:40am
  66. The Elders of the church must be having a shitfit in their garment ..LOVE IT !!

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 4:56am
  67. Signed the petition!

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 5:34am
  68. Utah is horrible

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 5:35am
  69. Signed the petition. Congrats. Hoping one day soon my wife will be able to sponser me and we can come home

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 6:03am
  70. Time to grow up Utah.

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 6:07am
  71. Congratulations to Utah!

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 6:26am
  72. Maybe there is hope for Tea Party Wisconsin!

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 7:01am
  73. AWESOME! <3

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 7:33am
  74. They are people under the label of!!! that is why!

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 9:14am
  75. Love often catches people off guard. It’s all good. <3

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 10:35am
  76. support gay rights

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 12:17pm
  77. (y)

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 12:57pm
  78. 1) one day it will just be called, um, “marriage.”
    2) same-sex marriages are far more successful than heterosexual ones. Take THAT to court!

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 12:57pm
  79. All the world need is love.
    We have a saying here in Brasil
    May it be eternal while it lasts .
    Of course I do want all gay marriages to last for ever and a day.

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 1:18pm
  80. Ohhhhhhh, you mean there are gay people in Utah? If you listen to the Mormons, those gay people just live somewhere else …… like in California. LOL

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 1:19pm
  81. Marry a person who you love not the priest wants to.

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 1:21pm
  82. Utah is AWESOME n proud to be from Utah :P

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 1:34pm
  83. God made man and woman for a reason

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 2:02pm
  84. God may have made man and woman but he also made them with the choice of choosing who to love religion shouldn’t stop someone from loving someone just because there the same sex.

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 2:12pm
  85. AWESOME

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 2:48pm
  86. Happy, Happy, Happy!

    Posted on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 2:55pm