Supreme Court halts gay marriage in Utah at least temporarily
By Lawrence Hurley
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday halted same-sex marriages in Utah - permitted for less than three weeks - while the state appeals a lower-court ruling legalizing them, as the justices again left their imprint on the debate over gay nuptials.
The high court granted a request from state officials appealing a federal judge's December 20 ruling that had allowed same-sex weddings to go ahead in the heavily Mormon state.
The action by the court means that gay weddings in the state are on hold for now while the case is appealed to the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Hundreds of gay couples in Utah have received marriage licenses since the ruling by U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby.
The stay created uncertainty about the legal status of the roughly 1,000 same-sex marriages that have taken place so far.
Sean Reyes, Utah's attorney general, told reporters in Salt Lake City that the state is not yet certain whether the stay invalidates existing marriages.
"This is precisely the uncertainty that we were hoping to avoid," Reyes said. "It's unfortunate that many Utah citizens have been put into this legal limbo."
Gary Herbert, Utah's Republican governor, said Shelby should have stayed his ruling, as officials had requested. The appeals court also declined to stay the decision, which prompted the state's emergency application to the high court.
"I firmly believe this is a state-rights issue and I will work to defend the position of the people of Utah and our state constitution," Herbert said in a statement. Continued...