Salt Lake City, UT, United States (4E) – A federal judge who struck down the Utah constitution’s traditional definition of marriage last week denied Monday the state attorney general’s request to stay his ruling amid a continuing rush by gay couples to get married.
U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby did not issue the request for a stay of his earlier judgment during the two-hour hearing because the state did not present new arguments on Monday. In response, acting Attorney General Brian Tarbet said the state will try to get the stay from the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. If that also fails, the state will next ask the U.S. Supreme Court to grant the stay.
Gov. Gary Herbert was disappointed with the ruling and insisted that a stay would have been appropriate until a resolution was issued so there will be no chaos. He was referring to the conflict posed by Shelby’s ruling to Amendment 3 and the possibility that same-sex marriage licenses would be voided later in case his ruling is reversed.
Assistant attorney general Phil Lott said Shelby’s order overrides Utahns’ vote in 2004 to define marriage as between one man and one woman and asked the judge to maintain the status quo.
In 2004, 66 percent of Utah voters passed Amendment 3 in the state Constitution that defines marriage as a union exclusively between a man and woman. On Friday, Shelby ruled that it violates the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
His ruling was in response to a lawsuit filed by three same-sex couples against Amendment 3 after their marriage license applications were refused by the state. It was the first ruling by a state court in the country to address whether a state may ban same-sex marriage under the Constitution since the U.S. Supreme Court voided the section of the Defense of Marriage Act that defines marriage as between a man and a woman for purposes of federal law.
Within hours of Shelby’s ruling on Friday, there was a rush for application of marriage licenses by same-sex couples. Some counties declined to issue licenses because a state code makes it a class A misdemeanor to give marriage license to anybody but a man and a woman, according to Salt Lake County deputy district attorney Darcy Goddard.
Herbert on Saturday advised county clerks to get their attorney’s guidance on whether or not to issue licenses to gay and lesbian couples.
The Salt Lake County Clerk’s Office on Friday issued about 150 marriage licenses for same-sex couples. Hundreds of similar couples were lined up at the office on Monday morning. Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill announced after Shelby’s decision that they will continue issuing marriage licenses to the cheers of applicants. By midday, 200 such licenses were issued, a clerk’s office representative said.
Weber, Summit, Carbon, Wayne, Uintah and Davis Counties were also issuing same-sex marriage licenses.
In Utah County, the clerk’s office was not issuing same-sex marriage licenses. Utah County Clerk Bryan E. Thompson told The Salt Lake Tribune he would wait to see how the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver ruled on Shelby’s decision before deciding how to proceed.
The Cache County clerk’s office was closed to sort out the legal issues of Shelby’s opinion.