July 18, 2014 at 5:44 pm EST | by Chris Johnson
Supreme Court halts recognition of Utah same-sex marriages

Supreme Court, gay news, Washington Blade

The U.S. Supreme Court has stayed recognition of Utah same-sex marriages (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key).

State recognition of same-sex marriages performed in Utah when the state briefly had marriage equality will continue to be on hold for time being, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Friday.

The court issued an order without explanation granting the request from Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes to place on hold a preliminary injunction from a district court requiring the state to recognize the marriages. After the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the injunction, Reyes took up the matter with the Supreme Court.

“The application for stay presented to Justice Sotomayor and by her referred to the Court is granted,” the order states. “The preliminary injunction issued by the United States District Court for the District of Utah, case No. 2:14-cv-00055-DAK, on May 19, 2014, is stayed pending final disposition of the appeal by the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.”

The stay request was made to U.S. Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who’s responsible for stay requests in the Tenth Circuit. She referred the matter to the entire court.

It’s along the lines of the stay that the U.S. Supreme Court granted in January in the case of Kitchen v. Herbert, which halted additional same-sex weddings from taking place in Utah after the district court ruling against its marriage law.

The litigation, known as Evans v. Utah, was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Utah after the Gov. Gary Herbert announced the state wouldn’t recognize pending appeal the estimated 1,300 marriages of same-sex couples who wed following the district court ruling, but before the Supreme Court issued a stay on the weddings.

Joshua Block, a staff attorney with the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual & Transgender Project, expressed disappointment with the order.

“We are deeply disappointed by the decision to grant a stay pending appeal, but despite this setback, we are confident that when the appellate process is completed we will prevail and these lawfully married same-sex couples will once again be given the same legal protections as ever other legally married Utah couple,” Block said.

Had the Supreme Court not issued a stay, recognition of Utah same-sex marriages would have gone into effect on Monday. Even though the state won’t recognize the marriages, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has already announced they would be valid for federal purposes.

In a statement, Reyes said he agrees with the court decision, but expressed sympathy for Utah families waiting for an answer to the litigation.

“Although we agree with the Court’s ruling, we acknowledge the pain and difficulty a stay imposes on many Utah citizens and families seeking to adopt and receive benefits,” Reyes said. “Today’s stay is necessary to the overall process as we work towards orderly resolution of the Amendment 3 cases as quickly as possible. While obtaining a clear and final decision by the highest court on all related issues is in the best interest of Utahns, we recognize that it does not make the waiting and uncertainty during that process any easier. Our internal team of attorneys have diverse personal beliefs about the issues in question, but unite in their dedication to seek final clarity and uphold Utah law.”

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

    • brians ions

      Given what he has voiced and written so far, it is hard to see how Kennedy will suddenly do an about face. This decision is probably more about trying to get a more decisive majority for SSM — with Roberts, maybe Alito, too.

  • El Dorado

    Just goes to show you can take nothing for granted. The perception that gays have overcome in America is simply an illusion. Heck, Justice Sotomayor who accepted the request for the “emergency” stay is one of the liberals.

    Even if ultimately we win the day in court, marriage equality is one issue and we have many other objectives to achieve.

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