January 6, 2014 Print

U.S. Supreme Court Halts Same-Sex Marriage in Utah — for Now

by Bethany Monk

The U.S. Supreme Court today temporarily halted a district court decision creating same-sex marriage in Utah. The order will remain in place until the case — seeking to redefine marriage — makes its way through the courts.

Federal Judge Richard Shelby ruled against Utah’s voter-approved marriage amendment last month. But, in defiance of standard practice, he allowed his decision to go into effect even as the appeal is under way. Supporters of marriage made an emergency appeal to the Supreme Court asking it to stop Shelby’s decision from going into effect.

The next stop for the case is the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Focus on the Family Legal Analyst Bruce Hausknecht called the high court’s order “momentous” and a “breath of fresh air.”

“The Supreme Court did what the lower court should have done,” he said. “Courts always suspend the enforcement of decisions that drastically alter the status quo pending an appeal by the losing side. But after last summer’s disappointing marriage decisions by the Supreme Court, there was this uneasy feeling that you couldn’t get five votes for anything reasonable where marriage is concerned.”

The Associated Press has reported that 900 licenses were issued to same-sex couples in Utah since Shelby’s Dec. 20 decision.

“No further marriages can be performed now,” Hausknecht explained. “The current legality of the marriages already performed is in question. But there is no question that if the appeals court overturns the lower court’s decision, those same-sex marriages will be as if they never happened.”

Hausknecht said it’s possible the 10th Circuit will issue its decision by the summer.

“Then the case will probably be appealed to the Supreme Court.”