Back to 17, US Supreme Court stays Utah marriage equality ruling 1/6/14

SCOTUS-ImageThe Supreme Court of the United States issued a hold on the Utah Federal Court ruling that had tossed out the state’s ban on gay marriage.  This will allow Utah to cease issuing marriage licenses to same-gender couples as the appeals process works it’s way through the lower courts.

The full court voted Friday on Utah’s request, only hours after receiving the final written documents.  Justice Sonia Sotomayor forwarded the request to the full court, rather than issue a ruling on her own as the Justice responsible for emergency requests from the 10th Circuit.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th District will now hear the appeal on an expedited schedule.  The Court has ordered the briefing to begin on January 25, 2014, and to conclude by February 25.  There is no date yet set for a hearing on the case.

SCOTUS Blog reports that 950 same-gender marriage licenses have been issued in Utah, and that state officials are evaluating the legal status of marriages that have occurred there.  Now those couples have to live in limbo, as there is no guarantee their marriages will be recognized by either state or federal bodies.

The situation in California during the time between the state supreme court’s ruling Proposition22 unconstitutional, which permitted Californians to marry, and the passage of Proposition 8 to remove that right, may not hold for Utah.   Marriage equality was legal, so the marriages performed in that window were ruled valid, but Utah may try to enforce an idea that none of the marriages performed there were legal, and are therefore void.

Hopefully, the courts will rapidly (as far as court action is concerned) deal with this issue, and rule in favor of marriage equality.  If they should uphold Utah’s amendment to the state constitution as legal, different from California’s removing existing rights from a minority group by denying them completely, then it may end up that under the equal protection clause of the US Constitution the state of Utah will at least have to recognize marriages conducted in other states, regardless of what Utah law says about marriage.

The anti-gay animus of such laws still runs rampant in many places in the United States, and I suppose we should not be surprised we have experienced another setback on the road to eventual full equality.  It will take more time, more money, more effort, and more upset in the lives of gay and lesbian citizens in Utah and elsewhere to move the law to where we all know it will eventually end up.  Marriage equality is a right that has come into it’s time, and it’s going to be the law across the US at some point in the relatively near future.  This patchwork of equality rights and bans cannot survive Constitutional scrutiny.  It’s simply going to take a lot of work in the years to come to be achieved.

Good luck to those who got married in Utah these past few weeks.  If Utah says you’re not really married, you’re welcome to come visit us in California and get married here.  That will insure the Federal government will recognize your marriage, and will increase pressure on Utah under the equal recognition and protection aspects of the US Constitution.

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