Utah judge allows gay marriages to continue

Judge Robert Shelby denied Utah's request for a stay on his ruling striking down the state's ban on gay marriage, meaning county clerks must issue marriage licenses to gay couples.
Posted By Gabrielle Levy  |  Dec. 23, 2013 at 1:23 PM
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A federal judge in Utah denied the state's request for a stay on his ruling declaring a ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional, allowing marriages to go forward pending an appeal.

U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby heard arguments from Assistant Utah Attorney General Phill Lott that the lives of same-sex couples allowed to marry would be irrevocably harmed if the law is eventually overturned, invalidating those marriages. Lott also said Shelby's ruling last Friday had upset the status quo and took everyone by surprise, sending the state into chaos.

Meanwhile, Peggy Tomsic, representing the three same-sex couples whose challenge to Utah Constitutional Amendment 3 led to the ban being struck down, argued that the state's arguments for the stay were no different than its arguments to uphold the ban in the first place.

If those "repackaged and dressed up version of the arguments the court has already rejected" failed the first time around, they should be dismissed again.

A federal appeals court had rejected a request for an emergency stay Sunday, saying it could not make a decision until Shelby had offered his. After his decision Monday, acting State Attorney General Brian Tarbet filed an emergency request with a federal appeals court to halt the dispensation of marriage licenses.

Around the state, some county clerk's offices had been issuing licenses to same-sex couples since Friday's decision, while others had denied them awaiting Shelby's decision.

In Salt Lake County, a line wrapped around two floors of the clerk's office, with cheers erupting from the crowd when the doors opened. In Weber County, a line more than a hundred people long applauded each time a couple emerged, license in hand, while couples went to a Hilton across the street to be wed.

Summit County and Davis County were also reportedly issuing licenses, while the Utah County clerk was turning away couples and Cache County had closed its clerk's office "until further notice."

Other counties issuing licenses were Washington, Uintah, and Grand. In Box Elder, Carbon and Wayne Counties, clerks said they were awaiting a court's decision.

[Salt Lake Tribune]

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