Utah judge who declared same-sex marriage legal refuses to stay his ruling

By Scott Kaufman
Monday, December 23, 2013 15:54 EDT
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U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby, who issued a controversial ruling on Friday allowing same-sex couples in Utah to marry, shot down the state attorney’s attempts to halt the flood of same-sex marriages currently being recognized by the state.

Governor Gary Herbert is dismayed by Judge Shelby’s decision. “It’s not surprising to me. It’s disappointing, but not surprising,” he told The Salt Lake Tribune. “Typical wisdom would have had, with the order of last Friday, a stay to accompany with it. It clearly was going to be appealed, no matter what the decision was, it would be appealed by either side.”

At 9 a.m. on Monday, Shelby began listening to the state’s case for issuing a stay on his Friday ruling. Utah Attorney General Philip Lott argued that a stay preventing same-sex marriages from being performed should have been issued, because Judge Shelby’s order “caught everyone by surprise” and “disrupted the status quo.”

“There is a great irony in the fact that for Utah to be allowed to become a state, it was compelled by the federal government to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman,” Lott said in reference to the fact that the federal government required Utah to outlaw polygamy before it could join the union.

Lott insisted that Shelby’s decision had caused “a cloud of uncertainty” to engulf the state, but Peggy Tomsic, speaking on behalf of three same-sex couples, countered that “The cloud of confusion is in the minds of the state.” She noted that the state’s arguments today were merely “a repackaged and dressed-up version of the arguments the court has already rejected.”

“There is no cloud of confusion,” she concluded. “There is a federal order explaining what the law in Utah is.”

After only an hour of deliberation, Judge Shelby agreed with her assessment of the state’s argument, saying that he’d already ruled that marriage was a “fundamental right” for all people, and that any county clerk’s office that refused to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple was in direct violation of Utah law.

[Image via United States District Court website]

Scott Kaufman
Scott Kaufman
Scott Eric Kaufman is the proprietor of the AV Club's Internet Film School and, in addition to Raw Story, also writes for Lawyers, Guns & Money. He earned a Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of California, Irvine in 2008.
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