Judge: Gay Utah Couples Can Keep Marrying

Last Friday, a federal judge declared Utah’s voter-enacted ban on gay marriage unconstitutional, and clerks started issuing marriage licenses. Ever since, Governor Gary Herbert and his underlings have been frantically petitioning courts to block the ruling, issuing emergency appeals to stop the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex coulpes until the appeals process plays out. None of these attempts have been successful, and Herbert finally threw in the towel late Tuesday after the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected his latest request.

"Until the final word has been spoken by this Court or the Supreme Court on the constitutionality of Utah's marriage laws, Utah should not be required to enforce Judge Shelby's view of a new and fundamentally different definition of marriage," the state wrote in its motion to halt Friday's ruling. But on Christmas Eve, Judges Jerome Holmes and Robert Bacharach ruled that gay couples can keep marrying while the state fights marriage equality in courts, concluding that “a stay is not warranted.” It’s the third time four days that a judge has ruled against the law, enacted via a ballot initiative and defining marriage as being between a man and a woman.

“It seems like we win over and over again. This is crazy," said Moudi Sbeit, one of the plaintiffs who originally brought the original case to overturn the law. "This has been the best Christmas gift ever."

But before the court even issued the ruling, the Attorney General’s office instructed clerks to issue marriage licenses to anyone who requested one, or risk being held in contempt of court. State officials say they’re going to appeal to the Supreme Court, but if they do that, the case goes directly to Sonia Sotomayor, as she’s the the Circuit Justice with jursidiction over Utah. She can to rule on the issue herself or refer it to the rest of the justices; as she supports gay marriage and voted against DOMA and Proposition 8, so the law is most likely dead on arriveal.

Utahans voted to deny marriage rights to same-sex couples in 2004. That vote has now effectively been overturned by three successive judges, and Utah — considered by many the most conservative state in the country — is now the 18th state to allow gay marriage.