Same-sex couples, accompanied by their friends and family members, line up to get marriage licenses at the Salt Lake County Government Building in Salt Lake City, Utah, December 23, 2013.
Jim Urquhart/Reuters

Marriage equality continues in Utah

Following up on this morning’s item, state officials in Utah, desperate to prevent more same-sex marriages following Friday’s federal court ruling, returned to the district court this morning. Their goal was simple: get a stay to leave the discriminatory law in place while the case is appealed.
Their request was denied.
State attorneys had argued before U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby that same-sex couples who marry in Utah would be irreparably harmed if the state’s continuing efforts to overturn the judge’s ruling succeed and those marriages are later invalidated.
In denying the request for a stay, Shelby agreed with an attorney representing three same-sex couples in the lawsuit that challenged Amendment 3, saying the state had only regurgitated the arguments he had already thrown out.
The state will now take its case to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, seeking an emergency stay, blocking marriage equality while the appeals court considers the case on the merits.
But in the meantime, equal marriage rights is still the law of the land in Utah, at least until the 10th Circuit weighs in.
In an unfortunate twist, some Utah counties apparently don’t care what the federal district court has ruled. In Utah County, according to the report in the Salt Lake Tribune, the clerk’s office is effectively ignoring the federal ruling, waiting to see what the 10th Circuit has to say. In Cache County, the clerk’s office has closed altogether “until further notice,” deciding not to extend marriage licenses to anyone. The county cited “confusion” created by the federal court.
For the record, federal court rulings aren’t supposed to be optional. County clerks in a situation like this, aren’t supposed to say, “I know what the federal court ruled, and I know there’s no stay, but we’ve decided to wait for another federal court to agree or disagree.” Indeed, these county officials run the risk of being held in contempt – Shelby said counties that don’t comply with court rulings are breaking the law.