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Jan 06 2014

Same-sex marriages halted in Utah

The US Supreme Court has ordered a stay of any further same-sex marriages in Utah until the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals decides the case.

The Utah state government’s request for the stay had gone to justice Sonia Sotomayor and she had referred it to the full court that issued a very brief statement that did not give any hint about what it felt about the merits of the case.

This is not really a major surprise. The justices likely felt that overturning the state’s marriage laws was something that should not be decided by a single District Court judge. The Appeals Court has asked both sides to submit their briefs by the end of this month.

8 comments

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  1. 1
    Dalillama, Schmott Guy

    The justices likely felt that overturning the state’s marriage laws was something that should not be decided by a single District Court judge

    And why not? That’s one of the reasons that District Courts exist, is it not? The state law in question blatantly violates the Equal Protection clauses in the U.S. Constitution, as well as those in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which has Constitutional force since the U.S. is a signatory to it, the judge’s decision was clearly correct, and the plaintiffs still haven’t shown any harm, in this or any of the other ridiculous suits they’ve brought elsewhere. There’s no valid reason to take them seriously for any further length of time.

  2. 2
    jamessweet

    This is what I had to say about it on Facebook:

    So, I haven’t really read what the pundits have said about the Utah same-sex marriage thing, so I may be repeating what others have said a bazillion times already… but in case, without further ado, my own analysis:

    The initial ruling was pretty shocking and I’m not entirely sure what to make of it. It’s somewhat hilarious that the judge cited Scalia in support of marriage equality, but perhaps not all that surprising. I said at the time that Scalia’s dissent in the DOMA case was more honest than the majority opinion — he essentially spilled the beans on the subtext that the majority was concealing. I actually AGREED with huge sections of his dissenting opinion — my only disagreement is that I thought it was a good thing, while Scalia clearly viewed it as a bad thing. Many people — Scalia included — correctly predicted that the majority’s choice of language in the DOMA ruling would be used as a template to allow state and district courts to rule in favor of a fundamental right to marriage equality, without the higher court actually having to do so themselves. But while that eventuality was very much anticipated, the fact that it happened so soon, and in UTAH of all places, was a bit of a shock.

    So that’s a good sign for the long term. More significant in the short term, I think, is the fact that the stay was denied all the way until it hit SCOTUS. That the 10th circuit declined to issue a stay is HUGE, and here’s why: It allowed a lot of people to get hitched in the interim. And if we recall, the 9th circuit issued a very interesting ruling in the Prop 8 case, which SCOTUS let stand. In a nutshell, they ruled that while there states were not constitutionally compelled to allow marriage equality, they WERE constitutionally prohibited from taking it away once it had been granted.

    Now, that’s an oversimplification, and the details I am glossing over might make it tricky to apply the same logic to the case at hand… but it still might be doable. The 10th circuit could cite the Prop 8 case as precedent, saying that the state needs “rational basis plus” in order to revoke a right that has already been granted, and SCOTUS could let such a ruling stand while still avoiding having to rule on the general question of marriage equality (which the current court has made very clear they are NOT ready to do).

    In other words, the fact that the 10th circuit refused to issue a stay potentially paves the way for marriage equality to be made permanent in Utah. That they did so is a strong clue that they themselves are willing, and (assuming Ginsberg is still on the court) the current group of Supremes has shown a strong enough desire for limited scope for their rulings on this subject that they might just go along with it.

  3. 3
    Mano Singham

    @#1,

    While I agree with you in general, every litigant has a right to at least one appeal before the decision is considered binding. in this case, that appeal is to the Court of Appeals. So the Supreme Court likely thought that the Appeals Court should weigh in on the constitutionality before the decision is considered binding on the entire state. I actually think the Appeals Court will agree with the District Court judge. If they do, it may well result in an appeal to the Supreme Court. It will then bo too late for the Supreme Court to hear it in this calendar year, so the interesting issue is whether the Appeals Court will issue a stay of the order to grant same-sex licenses. They refused earlier. If they refuse again to grant a stay, then same-sex couples in Utah will have until around spring of 2015 to get married.

  4. 4
    Dalillama, Schmott Guy

    While I agree with you in general, every litigant has a right to at least one appeal before the decision is considered binding. i

    And they’re getting it. That doesn’t mean they get to screw everyone else over while they arse around some more. As I understand it, an injunction like this requires that they be able to show they’ll be harmed by it going forward while they file their appeal. They haven’t. The end.

  5. 5
    Dalillama, Schmott Guy

    The above is especially true since they’re making the same (lack of a) case here that they tried in California, which a Federal court already said was no good.

  6. 6
    corwyn

    Anyone know how many couples were married in Utah in the interim?

  7. 7
    colnago80

    Re Jamessweet @ #2

    And if we recall, the 9th circuit issued a very interesting ruling in the Prop 8 case, which SCOTUS let stand. In a nutshell, they ruled that while there states were not constitutionally compelled to allow marriage equality, they WERE constitutionally prohibited from taking it away once it had been granted.

    The Supreme Court did no such thing. The ruling was that the plaintiffs had no standing to appeal the district court’s ruling so that the appeal to the 9th circuit was null and void and that it was the district court’s ruling that stood.

  8. 8
    colnago80

    Re corwyn @ #6

    I saw a figure of 900.

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