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US Supreme Court Puts Utah Gay Marriage on Hold

The US Supreme Court ruled today in favor of the states's request that Utah gay marriage licenses for same-sex couples be placed on hold. The court issued a ruling to temporarily block the impact of a federal judge's recent ruling striking down as unconstitutional a ban on gays and lesbians from legal wedlock.

U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby said in December the state's law "conflicts with the United States Constitution's guarantees of equal protection and due process under the law."

Enforcing this ruling would be tricky as hundreds of marriage licenses have already been issued by some Utah counties in the nearly two weeks since the decision was announced.

In 2004, Utah voters approved a law banning same-sex marriage in 2004.

The court's action today on the enforcement question is temporary and does not offer the final word on the constitutionality of the state's ban on same-sex marriage.

A Denver-based federal appeals court will take up the larger issues on an expedited basis in the coming weeks, but in the meantime has allowed those marriages to continue.

"Despite today's decision, we are hopeful that the lower court's well-reasoned decision will be upheld in the end and that courts across the country will continue to recognize that all couples should have the freedom to marry," Joshua Block, attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement.

The state had argued last week in its high court appeal that "as a result of the district court's injunction, numerous same-sex marriages are now occurring every day in Utah. And each one is an affront... to the interests of the states and its citizens in being able to define marriage through ordinary democratic channels."

The request was presented to Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who asked all her colleagues to weigh in. Monday's order had no noted dissents and can be enforced immediately.

Gov. Gary Herbert of Utah, a Republican, had sharply criticized Shelby's ruling, calling him "an activist federal judge."

The marriage case is Herbert v. Kitchen (13A687)

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