The slew of recent same-sex marriages in Utah have come to a halt this week after the Supreme Court placed the decision to lift the state’s gay marriage ban on hold Monday.
The Supreme Court put Utah’s ability to grant same-sex marriage certificates on hold while the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit comes to a decision on the matter. The Supreme Court ruled that gay marriage cannot continue during the appeals process. The ruling was issued after Utah filed an emergency appeal of U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby’s Dec. 20 lift on Utah’s gay marriage ban.
Though the fate of existing same-sex unions in the state is uncertain, the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah believes the marriages already performed under Judge Shelby's ruling should be considered legally valid, no matter the decision.
"Those licenses were valid when issued," said John Mejia, legal director for ACLU of Utah. "And the people who got those licenses in reliance on the ruling and were married in reliance on the ruling should have their marriages recognized by the state and federal governments."
Though no more licenses are being distributed in the state, couples have 30 days from the issuing of licenses to legally have their weddings before the license expires.
Media reports Utah officials are willing to spend up to $2 million on outside counsel to prepare the case for the appeals court. Many Utahns, including the ACLU of Utah, are wary of that decision.
"I think that any money beyond what the Attorney General's Office would usually spend internally is a waste of money," said Mejia. "The State of Utah has its own legal department and it has its own lawyers; I don't see any value that we have in hiring outside counsel when the taxpayers already flipped the legal bill."
Other Utahns, including Governor Gary Herbert, believe the stay should have come more quickly.
Although it is unclear how long the stay will last, Mejia told media the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals should have a decision by spring.
Gays have been allowed to marry in Utah for 17 days and more than 900 gay and lesbian couples have been married.