Gay marriages proceed in Utah as judge refuses to block ruling

SALT LAKE CITY Mon Dec 23, 2013 3:07pm EST

1 of 4. Shauna Griffen (L) and Brooke Shepherd get married at the Salt Lake County Government Building in Salt Lake City, Utah, December 23, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Jim Urquhart

U.S. Secret Service provide security for President Barack Obama in Pensacola, Florida, June 15, 2010. REUTERS/Jim Young

Protecting the President

The Secret Service detail surrounding President Obama.  Slideshow 

SALT LAKE CITY (Reuters) - Same-sex marriages were allowed to proceed in Utah after a federal judge on Monday refused to block his own ruling making gay marriage legal in the state.

U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby, who ruled last week that Utah's ban on same-sex marriage violated the rights of gay couples to due process and equal protection under the U.S. Constitution, said the state had not met the legal standards required for him to issue a stay against his ruling.

Utah Governor Gary Herbert has already filed a formal notice signaling he would appeal the ruling, even as about 900 couples lined up in the cold early on Monday to obtain marriage licenses from the county clerk's office in Salt Lake City.

First in line were Sarah Friese, 31, and her partner, Veronica Christensen, 32, who had been waiting in the cold since Sunday evening for the building to open so they could get a marriage license.

"We didn't want to miss our chance," said Friese, a computer specialist, in case the marriages were halted by the courts.

Ministers and others able to perform marriages in the state dotted the stairwells of the Salt Lake County administrative building, performing marriages on the spot as couples received their licenses.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in Denver was expected to rule as early as Monday on whether to halt same-sex marriages during the appeals process.

The appeals court has already refused twice to halt them, but Shelby's ruling Monday morning raises the issue again.

EMOTIONAL ISSUE

Utah's Acting Attorney General Brian Tarbet said his office would vigorously work on its appeal, and by late Monday morning had already filed its third request for a stay of Shelby's order.

"We're doing that because it's important that the voice of the people be maintained and we are going to do that cognizant of the fact that this is very emotional for many of our citizens on both sides," Tarbet said.

Last Friday, Utah became the 18th state to allow same-sex marriage.

Shelby ruled on a challenge by three gay couples to a state constitutional amendment that defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman, deciding that Utah's ban on same-sex marriage violated the rights of gay couples to due process and equal protection under the U.S. Constitution.

"I am very disappointed an activist federal judge is attempting to override the will of the people of Utah," Herbert said in a statement after the ruling.

Advocates of gay marriage have won repeated victories in recent years as a growing portion of the American electorate has taken a more favorable view of same-sex relationships.

A year and a half ago, just six states and the District of Columbia recognized same-sex unions.

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court delivered a landmark victory for gay rights by overturning a federal law that barred federal benefits for same-sex marriages in states where such marriages are legal.

On Thursday, the New Mexico Supreme Court decided to allow same-sex marriage across the state. In November, the governors of Hawaii and Illinois signed legislation to legalize same-sex weddings.

(Additional reporting by Robert Boczkiewicz in Denver and Victoria Cavaliere in New York; Writing by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Edith Honan, Bernadette Baum and Cynthia Osterman)

FILED UNDER:
We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (27)
simbaji wrote:
I have read the 53-page ruling released by United States District Judge Robert Shelby and find no basis for rejection of the ruling or reason for a stay. In fact, Governor Gary Herbert’s assertion, “It is important to me that the law as passed by the people of this state in defense of traditional marriage is upheld,” is based just as emotionally as were all the arguments that failed review in the ruling. Judge Shelby made a ruling based on law, review and recognition to protect individuals from state discrimination. Governor Herbert made a statement that supports his view that the state, regardless of how or why a law was passed, has the right to abridge a persons protection from discrimination.

Furthermore, many changes to laws have had the affect “substantially upsets the status quo” in history. One need only look to the list of United States Constitutional Amendments that have been passed after the Bill of Rights was ratified. To draw from Judge Shelby, upsetting the “status quo” is not a rational basis for argument.

Dec 22, 2013 9:57pm EST  --  Report as abuse
2tellthetruth wrote:
The full quote (which your competition has) is:

“I am very disappointed an activist federal judge is attempting to override the will of the people of Utah,” Herbert said of the Thursday ruling. “I am working with my legal counsel and the acting attorney general to determine the best course to defend traditional marriage within the borders of Utah.”

If only he could explain how other folks getting married is something that something heterosexuals getting married needs to be “defended” FROM.

Now that gay couples can marry, it doesn’t mean str8 ones can’t.

He’s on shaky legal ground for sure.

Dec 22, 2013 10:50pm EST  --  Report as abuse
crowleykirk wrote:
Gay marriage should NEVER be legal ANYWHERE!!!!!!
We will fight this to the bitter end.

Dec 23, 2013 10:26am EST  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.