A federal appeals court on Sunday declined to stop officials in Utah from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples following a judge's ruling last week that overturned the state's ban on gay marriage. Utah Governor Gary Herbert asked for an emergency stay to prevent marriage licenses from being issued to same-sex couples after U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby on Friday ruled the ban unconstitutional.
Late Friday, a federal district court ruled that Utah's ban on same-sex marriages is unconstitutional. Judge Robert Shelby found that the statewide law, approved by Utah voters in 2004, violates gay and lesbian couples' rights to due process and equal protection under the 14th Amendment, and "demeans the dignity of these same-sex couples for no rational reason."
Shelby did not issue a stay with his decision, which meant that on Friday afternoon, marriage equality was the law of the land in Utah -- a reality that many same-sex couples were eager to quickly take advantage of.
Over the weekend, state officials sought emergency relief from the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. That didn't go well.
In this case, state officials basically tried to move things along more quickly -- they went to the 10th Circuit over the weekend so they wouldn't have to wait until this morning to try again with Judge Shelby. The 10th Circuit effectively told the state that there was no actual emergency so there's no reason to short circuit the normal procedure.
In practical terms, that means marriage equality is still the law of the land in Utah, at least as of this minute, and same-sex unions can continue this morning.
So what's next? The state will go back to the district court this morning -- Shelby scheduled a hearing for 9 a.m. local time -- to ask that Friday's ruling be put on hold while the appeals process continues. Barring a surprise, Shelby seems likely to turn down that request.
At that point, same-sex marriages will continue, while the case goes back to the 10th Circuit.