The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday put same-sex marriages in Utah on hold, granting the state's request for a stay while it appeals a ruling that laws banning such marriages are unconstitutional. The court said the stay would be in place until the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver makes a decision on Utah's appeal. The state's stay application was filed with Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who referred it to the whole court, according to the order issued Monday. Sotomayor is assigned to the 10th Circuit Court, which rejected Utah's request for a stay three times.
A federal court ruling rejected Utah's ban on same-sex marriages on Dec. 20, and ever since, couples throughout the state have been permitted to get legally married, regardless of sexual orientation. When state officials sought an emergency stay from the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, Utah lost there, too.
But state officials had far more success at the U.S. Supreme Court, which made a surprise announcement this morning.
Note, the high court did not rule on the merits of the case itself, at least not yet. Today's announcement means Utah's discriminatory law can remain in place while the appeals process continues.
James Magleby, one of the lawyers representing the same-sex couples in Utah, called the order "disappointing," but told NBC News' Pete Williams, "[T]his is just a temporary order and it is not unusual for the court to stay a decision declaring a state law unconstitutional pending appeal. Importantly, however, this temporary stay has no bearing on who will win on appeal.
"We were confident when we filed the case in 2013. We were confidence when we presented arguments to the District Court, and we remain equally -- if not more -- confident about our defense of marriage equality before the 10th Circuit."