Supreme Court Orders Halt to Utah Gay Marriages

Jax and Heather Collins get married at the Salt Lake County Clerk's office, Dec 23, 2013., but the Supreme Court has halted gay weddings in Utah. Deseret News/AP Photo

The Supreme Court has ordered a halt to same sex marriages in Utah.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor referred the issue to the full court and the court granted a request from Utah to block same sex marriages from proceeding, at least while the state appeals a district court decision that ruled the state's ban on gay marriage violated the constitutional rights of gays.

Since the lower court's ruling on Dec. 20, hundreds of same sex marriages have been carried out in Utah.

In court papers, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes had argued that putting the lower court ruling on hold was "urgently needed." Reyes said that each gay marriage "is an affront not only to the interests of the state and its citizens in being able to define marriage through ordinary democratic channels, but also to this court's unique role as final arbiter of the profoundly important question" regarding gay marriage.

Lawyers for three same sex couples challenging the mandate urged the court to deny the request and allow the marriages to continue.

Peggy A. Tomsic, a lawyer for the couples said that two federal courts had been correct to allow the marriages to go forward pending appeal. Tomsic argued, "Forcing same sex couples and their families to wait and hope for the best during the pendency of this appeal imposes an intolerable and dehumanizing burden that no family should have to endure."

A federal appeals court has expedited the appeal of the case and is scheduled to have all briefing completed by February.

Here's the text of the Supreme Court's order:

ORDER IN PENDING CASE 13A687 HERBERT, GOV. OF UT, ET AL. V. KITCHEN, DEREK, ET AL. The application for stay presented to Justice Sotomayor and by her referred to the Court is granted. The permanent injunction issued by the United States District Court for the District of Utah, case No. 2:13-cv-217, on December 20, 2013, is stayed pending final disposition of the appeal by the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.