Hundreds of gay and lesbian married couples in Utah are in legal limbo after the US Supreme Court allowed the state to stop issuing same-sex marriage licenses.
Utah has opposed a 20 December district court judge’s decision to overturn the state’s ban on gay marriage. Monday’s ruling temporarily reinstates that ban, at least until the state’s appeal against the earlier ruling is complete.
It’s unclear what this means for the almost 1,000 same-sex couples who already tied the knot in the past two and a half weeks, but any future plans for gay weddings will have to be put on hold.
Utah attorney general Sean Reyes welcomed the news and said that the marriages should never have gone ahead until the appeals process against the original ruling was complete.
“This is the uncertainty that we were trying to avoid by asking the District Court for a stay immediately after its decision. It is very unfortunate that so many Utah citizens have been put into this legal limbo,” he said.
Freedom to Marry founder and president Evan Wolfson said the latest ruling was disappointing but called it “a temporary pause in the work to win marriage for all loving and committed same-sex couples in the state”.
He added: “About 1,000 same-sex couples have legally married in Utah in the past few weeks; and their friends, neighbours, and elected officials will now see that marriage betters their lives and hurts no one.”
It’s unclear when the appeal case will be heard but it appears that the state of Utah is determined to exhaust all legal options to keep same-sex marriage banned.
In 2005, more than 65% of the state’s citizens voted to define marriage as only being possible between a man and a woman. Governor Gary Herbert has accused the judge who overturned the ban of “attempting to override the will of the people of Utah”.