Same-Sex Marriage Ruling Returns To Utah Court

Same-sex marriage is allowed to continue in the most surprising of states — Utah — after a court heard the state's appeal to put a short-term hold on the ceremonies just three days after U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby struck down Utah's 'unconstitutional' ban on same-sex marriage. It was the second attempt to halt the ruling: The state filed a request this weekend to block the marriages, but it was denied by a federal court Sunday. But in the luckiest turn of events, today's judge at the hearing was also Shelby, meaning the deal was pretty much sealed, anyway.

Utah is considered one of the most conservative states in the U.S., and the ruling came as somewhat of a shock on Friday. The state's spent the weekend trying to halt the effects of Shelby's ruling as more than 100 same-sex couples made a dash for City Hall on Friday alone. Critics of Shelby say he's stepping beyond his bounds, because few voters support gay marriage in the state (though polls show that the majority of Utah citizens favor legal recognition for same-sex couples).

“I am very disappointed an activist federal judge is attempting to override the will of the people of Utah," Utah Governor Gary R. Herbert said. "I am working with my legal counsel and the acting Attorney General to determine the best course to defend traditional marriage within the borders of Utah.”

Herbert filed for an emergency stay of the ruling, but it was struck down by the U.S. Federal Court of Appeals in a ruling Sunday that said his request didn't tick all the boxes necessary for a stay. With Shelby's hearing taking place just one hour after county clerks' offices open, couples are expected to be queuing early Monday morning.

"Time is of the essence, we don't know how much time we will have," said a post on Equality Utah's Facebook page. "We have confirmation that Salt Lake County & Weber County Clerks will be open and ready to marry people exactly at 8am [sic]."

The ban on same-sex marriage was struck down on Friday with Shelby holding that the state's ban, passed in 2004 as its third constitutional amendment, denied couples equal protection and due process under the 14th Amendment. Shelby also said that the state failed to prove that allowing same-sex marriage would have a conceivable effect on heterosexual marriage.

“The state’s current laws deny its gay and lesbian citizens their fundamental right to marry and, in so doing, demean the dignity of these same-sex couples for no rational reason,” Shelby wrote. “Accordingly, the court finds that these laws are unconstitutional.”