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Utah officials turn to higher court to halt same-sex marriages

About 700 gay couples have obtained marriage licenses since a federal judge declared Utah's gay marriage ban unconstitutional
Monday, December 23, 2013
Utah

Benjamin Zack, Standard-Examiner (AP)
Hundreds of gay couples line up outside of the county clerk’s office in the Weber Center on Monday morning, Dec. 23, 2013, the first day that Weber County began accepting applications for same-sex marriage licenses. Couples began lining up outside the building at 10 p.m. on Sunday night due to concern that the state might only issue licenses for one hour before a possible stay could be placed on the ruling that allowed same-sex marriage.

Updated: 10:30 p.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah state lawyers have again turned to a Denver-based federal appeals court in their bid to put a stop to gay couples getting married, saying the state should not be required to abide by one judge’s narrow view of a “new and fundamentally different definition of marriage.”

About 700 gay couples have obtained marriage licenses since U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby on Friday declared Utah’s gay marriage ban unconstitutional, but lawyers for the state are trying every legal avenue to halt the practice.

Benjamin Zack, Standard-Examiner (AP)Patrick Freideman, left, and his husband Spencer Freideman kiss during their wedding in a hallway at the Hampton Inn in Ogden on Monday, Dec. 23, 2013.

Benjamin Zack, Standard-Examiner (AP)
Patrick Freideman, left, and his husband Spencer Freideman kiss during their wedding in a hallway at the Hampton Inn in Ogden on Monday, Dec. 23, 2013.

Ravell Call, Deseret News (AP)Jax and Heather Collins hug after getting married at the Salt Lake County clerk's office Monday, Dec 23, 2013.

Ravell Call, Deseret News (AP)
Jax and Heather Collins hug after getting married at the Salt Lake County clerk’s office Monday, Dec 23, 2013.

Benjamin Zack, Standard-Examiner (AP)Cody Carter, right, and his husband, Darren Hayes, center, get married in the hallway of the Hampton Inn in Ogden, Utah, while another couple is married at the top of the stairs on Monday, Dec. 23, 2013.

Benjamin Zack, Standard-Examiner (AP)
Cody Carter, right, and his husband, Darren Hayes, center, get married in the hallway of the Hampton Inn in Ogden, Utah, while another couple is married at the top of the stairs on Monday, Dec. 23, 2013.

Hundreds of same-sex couples wrapped around two floors at the Salt Lake County Complex on Monday morning waiting to obtain marriage licenses.

Ravell Call, Deseret News (AP)
Hundreds of same-sex couples wrapped around two floors at the Salt Lake County Complex on Monday morning waiting to obtain marriage licenses.

Shelby on Monday denied their bid to temporarily stop gay marriage while the appeals process plays out, and they then quickly went to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Utah is the 18th state where gay couples can wed, and the sight of same-sex marriages occurring just a few miles from the headquarters of the Mormon church has provoked anger among the state’s top leaders.

“Until the final word has been spoken by this Court or the Supreme Court on the constitutionality of Utah’s marriage laws, Utah should not be required to enforce Judge Shelby’s view of a new and fundamentally different definition of marriage,” the state said in a motion to the appeals court.

It is estimated that nearly two-thirds of Utah’s 2.8 million residents are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Mormons dominate the state’s legal and political circles. The Mormon church was also one of the leading forces behind California’s short-lived ban on same-sex marriage.

The legal wrangling over the topic will likely continue for months. The 10th Circuit could rule as soon as Monday evening or Tuesday on whether to temporarily halt the weddings. But the same court likely will hear the full appeal of the case several months from now.

People began lining up Sunday night at the Salt Lake County clerk’s office in the hopes of getting licenses amid the uncertainty of the pending ruling by Shelby. Couples then got married once every few minutes in the lobby to the sound of string music from a violin duet.

They anxiously eyed their cellphones for news on Shelby’s decision, and a loud cheer erupted once word spread that he wouldn’t be blocking weddings. “We feel equal!” one man shouted; his partner called it “this magic happening out of the clear blue.”

Adam Blatter said he was in a panic to get married Monday morning before a judge could halt the issuance of licenses. He and his partner, Joseph Chavez, were elated when it became clear their wait was worthwhile, and they were shocked that it was happening in a state long known as one of the most conservative in the country.

“We expected Utah to be the last place we could get married,” Blatter said.

Even if the 10th Circuit grants a stay, the marriage licenses that already have been issued probably will remain valid, said Carl Tobias, a constitutional law professor at Virginia’s University of Richmond who has tracked legal battles for gay marriage. It’s not entirely certain, however, because Utah’s situation has unfolded differently than those of other states, and there’s no direct precedent, he said.

Not all counties are issuing the licenses. In Utah County, one of the most conservative in the state, County Clerk Brian Thompson made a conscious decision to defy the judge’s ruling and not grant marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples. He said he wants to see if the appeals court grants the stay first.

“I totally understand the position I’m in,” he said, “but I have a responsibility as elected official to proceed with caution.”

The appeals court already has rejected two previous requests from the state due to procedural issues, but it has not yet considered the case based on merits.

The Mormon church said Friday it stands by its support for “traditional marriage” and hopes a higher court validates its belief that marriage is between a man and woman.

In court Monday, Utah lawyer Philip Lott repeated the words “chaotic situation” to describe what has happened in Utah since clerks started allowing gay weddings. He urged the judge to “take a more orderly approach than the current frenzy.”

“Utah should be allowed to follow its democratically chosen definition of marriage,” he said of the 2004 gay marriage ban.

In explaining his decision, Shelby said the state made basically the same arguments he had already rejected.

Adding to the chaos is the fact that Utah Attorney General John Swallow stepped down about a month ago amid a scandal involving allegations of bribery and offering businessmen protection in return for favors. The state has been relying on an acting attorney general, and Gov. Gary Herbert appointed a replacement Monday who will serve until a special election next year.

Peggy Tomsic, the lawyer for the same-sex couples who brought the case, called gay marriage the civil rights movement of this generation and said it was the new law of the land in Utah.

“The cloud of confusion that the state talks about is only their minds,” she said.

Shelby said in Friday’s ruling that the constitutional amendment that Utah voters approved violates gay and lesbian couples’ rights to due process and equal protection under the 14th Amendment. He said the state failed to show that allowing same-sex marriages would affect opposite-sex marriages in any way.

Legal scholars speculate that the case could someday be reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court if the justices decide they want to weigh in on whether state same-sex marriage bans violate the U.S. Constitution.

Tobias said that’s a real possibility, but far from imminent. It will depend on what the appeals court decides and what happens with other court challenges in Nevada, Pennsylvania and Virginia, he said.

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57 more reader comments:

  1. Awesome

    Posted on Tuesday, December 24, 2013 at 5:55am
  2. I wonder if people realize how much money is being wasted in attempting to prevent same-sex marriage when so much more could be earned by allowing it.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 24, 2013 at 5:55am
  3. YAY UTAH !!!

    Posted on Tuesday, December 24, 2013 at 5:58am
  4. Woot!

    Posted on Tuesday, December 24, 2013 at 5:58am
  5. suck it Obama haters

    Posted on Tuesday, December 24, 2013 at 6:00am
  6. Watch this fail too…

    Posted on Tuesday, December 24, 2013 at 6:03am
  7. Old. They already denied it.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 24, 2013 at 6:05am
  8. What is this control issue that these clowns think they can have over every segment of society because they are religious? Fuck the moron church. Make them pay taxes. Like xstians, they are a cult of hate.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 24, 2013 at 6:08am
  9. Mormons for Equality have actually been out there in the trenches fighting against the ban.

    Replied on Tuesday, December 24, 2013 at 4:59pm
  10. Denver is Fed. through this channel the Supreme Court could vote on it and end it all. I hope in equality.

    Replied on Tuesday, December 24, 2013 at 8:00pm
  11. Scott sounds like you are the one full of hate

    Replied on Tuesday, December 24, 2013 at 11:25pm
  12. Congratulations those in Utah who have finally gotten your equality!

    Posted on Tuesday, December 24, 2013 at 6:09am
  13. is this their 3rd try at failure? FAIL!

    Posted on Tuesday, December 24, 2013 at 6:11am
  14. Yes, but don’t you know, gays aren’t interested in commitment! They’re only after lustful sex!

    Posted on Tuesday, December 24, 2013 at 6:12am
  15. Boy have I got news for you, sister.

    Replied on Tuesday, December 24, 2013 at 8:13am
  16. Shelly must know that her man just wants her for sex?

    Replied on Tuesday, December 24, 2013 at 12:09pm
  17. Guys, did you not see the ? My last two partners have been women. And I was married to one for almost 14 years...

    Replied on Tuesday, December 24, 2013 at 1:13pm
  18. LOL Right on, Shelly. Psychologists call that "transferrence." They recognize what they hate in themselves, and transfer that to others. The governor and AG hate women and see them only as walking sex toys, so they assume that all gay citizens are the same.

    Replied on Tuesday, December 24, 2013 at 1:13pm
  19. U.S. Constitution – AMENDMENT XIV

    SECTION 1.

    All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

    This, right here, is why marriage equality (even for GLBT) should be the law of the land already.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 24, 2013 at 6:13am
  20. Great song for the moment!

    Posted on Tuesday, December 24, 2013 at 6:13am
  21. Yay!!

    Posted on Tuesday, December 24, 2013 at 6:18am
  22. Idiots! Go figure…Utah!

    Posted on Tuesday, December 24, 2013 at 6:23am
  23. Can’t stop progress

    Posted on Tuesday, December 24, 2013 at 6:37am
  24. Sad thing is, there would have been twice that figure if the counties outside Salt Lake would have obeyed the law. They are refusing couples, standing sheriffs outside and slamming doors in LGBT faces despite the ruling.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 24, 2013 at 6:45am
  25. So gay & lesbian couples should cooperate, walk in as "hetero couples," then switch back at the counter! LOL

    Replied on Tuesday, December 24, 2013 at 1:15pm
  26. Happy day

    Posted on Tuesday, December 24, 2013 at 6:47am
  27. yes it right i dont like christian too bec they are no respect at alll

    Posted on Tuesday, December 24, 2013 at 7:02am
  28. Suck it Mormons

    Posted on Tuesday, December 24, 2013 at 7:12am
  29. UTAH……..how many wives can I have?………..lmao…

    Posted on Tuesday, December 24, 2013 at 7:25am
  30. They don’t want gay marriage, but let straight guys marry as know women they want. Got damn incest!

    Posted on Tuesday, December 24, 2013 at 7:40am
  31. It the church, not just an individual. Asshole.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 24, 2013 at 8:13am
  32. And 700 hetero marriages have dissolved, right?

    Posted on Tuesday, December 24, 2013 at 8:27am
  33. the young Mormon boys will
    be sprinting to get away from their wives…

    Posted on Tuesday, December 24, 2013 at 8:34am
  34. Being able to marry is great. But what for me seems a little awful is the fact that wedding is a ceremony and not to be done in a hurry with tons of people aside.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 24, 2013 at 8:47am
  35. If you knew that you might have less than a few hours from when you got your license to getting the thing signed and legally married, or you might have to wait years, or move to another state, wouldn't you want to do whatever it took to marry the person you have loved and lived with for the last 20 years? Those getting married this week have waited years, even decades. The state is trying to slam the door in their faces using any means necessary, legal or not.

    Replied on Tuesday, December 24, 2013 at 12:06pm
  36. Robb Trujillo see u on the left?

    Posted on Tuesday, December 24, 2013 at 9:00am
  37. If the federal government would stand up and actually do something each state would not have the choice to treat all people equally it would be law. Until that day its on again off again rights, except for our right to pay taxes to a country that doesn’t even count us as equal.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 24, 2013 at 11:38am
  38. When your are Lesbian, Gay, Transsexual, or Bisexual, marriage law is like quicksand. Every state is different. In some states, your marriage, including all of your spouses benefits, could be removed, simply because you are now a same sex couple, even though you were legally married when you GOT married if you are transsexual and transition. If you are a gay spouse, someone who has lived with a domestic partner for years, shared dreams, goals, hopes, love, and pain with, your spouse won't even be allowed to die because his insurance company refused to cover your medical treatment, because the hospital won't allow him to visit you. Every day, in ever state where gay marriage is banned or not legal, LGBT people, PEOPLE, are being denied life, liberty, and property, with no due process of law. There is no jury trial, no right to an attorney, no right to call witnesses, no right to present your case - only loss and pain.

    Replied on Tuesday, December 24, 2013 at 12:12pm
  39. Still amazes me. My state, Illinois, was poised to be the 10th state to legalize same sex marriage. We blew it and ended up 17. Since we still can’t actually marry, unless we are terminally ill. Guess we are now19 or is it 20.

    Also, my understanding is Utah is the only State in the union to specifically ban bigamy/polygamy in their constitution. It was a requirement for statehood. No other State has this as part of their constitution. Other States it is simply a law.

    Some Mormons still have many wives. But the State and the church do not recognize the wives after number one.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 24, 2013 at 1:49pm
  40. Fuck Utah also

    Posted on Tuesday, December 24, 2013 at 2:07pm
  41. WHY?????

    Posted on Tuesday, December 24, 2013 at 2:29pm
  42. Congrats and Mazel Tov! xo

    Posted on Tuesday, December 24, 2013 at 2:31pm
  43. Will those assholes finally be able to show the court how two strangers of the same sex marrying has anything to do with them or how it personally harms them?

    Posted on Tuesday, December 24, 2013 at 4:02pm
  44. Shame on these oficials….

    Posted on Tuesday, December 24, 2013 at 4:10pm
  45. Reminds me of the time when blacks were allowed to vote and racists still denied them entry. Keep it classy, Utah. -_-

    Posted on Tuesday, December 24, 2013 at 4:26pm
  46. Just give up, haters. Get over yourselves- and your misplaced fear!

    Posted on Tuesday, December 24, 2013 at 5:38pm
  47. What a wonderful Christmas gift for all!

    Posted on Tuesday, December 24, 2013 at 6:20pm
  48. May they find the happiness they have been deprived of for so many years. LOVE TO THEM ALL.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 24, 2013 at 6:26pm
  49. none of that is news i have read nearly every word verbatim in other recent articles.where i expected more detailed information i felt like there was a paragraph missing. dont run a story to run a story.i find it disrespectful to read the same information over and over especially stories that run such a convoluted time line as this.

    as a side note; drop the whole “a few miles from the mormon head quarters” thing. one it makes the community look as though this is an invasive political manoeuvre which is EXACTLY why they opposed equal marriage in the first place. not good politics when you are looking for majority support in a state that by your own words is 65% LDS. which leads me to my second point, having grown up LDS in Utah i know that mormon is kind of a PC slur, dont use it. u dont call catholics kiddie-fidlers they are catholic, likewise it is the LDS church not the mormon church, you will find that word on no buildings or stationary, only their primary book of scripture. these are the kinds of behaviours that dictate how people outside our community will view up , if we want to be treated as equals we must behave as equals this includes addressing other denominations respectfully. dont want to be called dyke or faggot then dont call them by any slur yourself.thats the funny thing about equality. it has to go both ways.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 24, 2013 at 6:36pm
  50. Great judge – great ruling – it is time for change in the world regarding same sex marriage. Love is love.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 24, 2013 at 9:11pm
  51. But polygamy is still practiced. Get over it.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 24, 2013 at 10:12pm
  52. can we just eliminate the use of marriage licenses for everyone and begin taxing churches? marriage is a religious concept that even atheists and homosexuals can celebrate through private wedding ceremonies. Asking the government to get married regardless of what fucking orientation or religion people are is stupid as shit.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 24, 2013 at 10:17pm
  53. I think its a ploy to make lotsa money off us gays !!

    Posted on Tuesday, December 24, 2013 at 10:51pm
  54. No, I just have a thing against hypocritical bullies.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 24, 2013 at 11:31pm
  55. The Mormon church is a cult.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 25, 2013 at 1:16am
  56. So, me thinks this is a positive economic impact for the State of Utah, why would they want to stop this now that they see how much money they are making?

    Posted on Wednesday, December 25, 2013 at 5:31am
  57. It would be neat if we could deny straight marriages for a year and see what happens.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 25, 2013 at 6:51am