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Judge Smacks Down Utah’s Request for Stay as Hundreds of Gay Couples Get Married


On Friday, US District Court Judge Robert J. Shelby made a historic and courageous ruling by when he handed down a decision stating that Utah’s ban on gay marriage, which went into effect in 2004, was unconstitutional. Therefore, the door was opened for gay and lesbian couples to file for marriage licenses in the state and get married. Also, at the time of his ruling, Judge Shelby did not issue a stay, meaning that his ruling went into effect immediately. On Friday evening, dozens of couples made their way to Salt Lake City’s county clerk’s office to apply for marriage licenses. Many got married that evening or over the weekend.

On Monday morning, attorneys for the state argued in front of Judge Shelby insisting that a stay was needed while his decision awaited appeal. Before noon local time, Shelby rendered his decision and he denied the state a stay. Basically, he stated that the state’s attorneys’ arguments were essentially the same that they were in arguing the case last week, and that they were unable to provide a solid reason why this would cause any kind of irreparable harm.

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After Shelby’s decision was announced on Monday, Governor Gary Herbert made the following statement:


“It’s not surprising to me. It’s disappointing, but not surprising. 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. So the process will move forward, that’s the democratic process.

“And the uncertainty of what is happening is creating a lot of chaos. That’s my concern. This uncertainty is creating a lot of problems for us with the conflicting laws in the state of Utah, what the clerks should be doing, what the tax laws are going to be. There’s a lot of issues there, so a stay would be appropriate until we finally have resolution. So I’m disappointed, but not surprised.”


Utah’s Attorney General, Sean Reyes, went ahead and filed another request for a stay with a different court, the 10th Circuit Court which is in Denver, CO. However, the state’s original request for a stay through that court was denied, as the court said Judge Shelby needed to make a ruling on whether a stay was needed or not first. With Shelby now ruling that a stay is unnecessary, it seems unlikely that the 10th Circuit Court will overrule him at this point. The state will now wait for an appeal of the ruling, but the likeliness of them winning that also seems somewhat small.

Some counties in Utah were not granting marriage licenses right away. Utah County’s clerk wants to wait until the federal appeals court makes a decision on Shelby’s ruling. Cache County just closed the clerk’s office ‘until further notice.’ Counties like Carbon, Wayne and Box Elder stated that they would not issue licenses but would take applications, wanting to wait on a final decision. Later in the afternoon, Wayne County stated that with the request for a stay denied, they would start issuing licenses.

However, other counties complied with the law right away and were bombarded with requests on Monday. Salt Lake County processed over 200 marriage licenses by early afternoon on Monday and the line was only getting longer. Dozens of couples in the counties of Weber, Washington, Summit and Davis got licenses and were married early Monday morning, with many, many more applying throughout the day.

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