Monday’s order by the Supreme Court to “suspend” same sex marriage in Utah is, to put it mildly, disappointing.
This decision doesn’t necessarily reflect the court’s mindset on the merits of this case, or any other in which similar orders are issued. There is a reason to be concerned about this decision, because among other things, it puts the 950 same sex couples who were issued marriage licenses during Utah’s moment of marriage equality in a sort of legal no man’s land. This is especially true of the couples who were also married during that period.
According to the Washington Post, officials haven’t decided if they will “take additional legal action” against the marriages that occurred.
There is not clear legal precedence for this particular situation,” Reyes, who took office just last week, said in a statement. “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.
This is the same Utah that argued in its application for the stay, that the same sex marriages that were occurring as a result of the District court’s injunction are an affront to the state and its citizens.
The SCOTUS granted Utah’s request for a stay of a district court ruling that nullified the state’s ban on same sex marriage without offering reasons for the decision.
The only thing the order, which was referred to the full court by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, tells us is same sex marriage in Utah is on hold until the courts finally decide if states have a right to limit the definition of marriage to that of one man and one woman. The decision was unanimous.
This means there will be an expedited review of Judge Shelby’s decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit and eventually the case will be heard by the Supreme Court. According to the SCOTUS Blog’s estimate, that will happen sometime this term.
The SCOTUS avoided directly addressing the constitutionality of marriage equality in two marriage equality cases last year. In the Prop 8 case, (Hollingsworth v. Perry) the Court concluded the petitioners didn’t have standing. In the DOMA Case (U.S. v Windsor) the SCOTUS majority concluded that DOMA violates a state’s right to recognize same sex marriages, but it also recognized that the law was unconstitutional because it violated the equal protection and due process clauses.
It should be a no brainer that if a federal law banning same sex marriage violates the equal protection and due process clauses of the U.S. Constitution, a similar state law also violates the same constitutional protections.