Will the Utah Same-Sex Marriage Ruling Stand? 3 Possible Outcomes
As many of us were traveling for the holidays, something extremely unexpected was happening in the West (and no, it wasn’t a Santa spotting). A Republican federal judge in Utah, which has been thought of as one of the most conservative states in the country, ruled the state’s same-sex marriage ban as unconstitutional, resulting in a record-breaking number of couples storming county clerk offices for marriage licenses.
State officials wasted no time in retaliating, requesting a stay from Judge Robert Shelby for his ruling, which would put marriages on hold until after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit had a chance to rule on the already pending appeal. The request was swiftly declined.
As couples continue to say “I do,” the legal validity of their marriages remains in limbo. Here are three possible plans of attack from the state officials as they lean on the state’s heavy social, religious and political influence of the Mormon Church:
Officials have already submitted an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, which has promised to expedite its review, but could still take as long as several months.
They could go straight to the top for a stay request from Justice Sonia Sotomayor of the U.S. Supreme Court until after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit reviews the case.
The state officials could be extremely bold, and jump over the Tenth Circuit and send their case straight to the High Court. Because Justice Sotomayor is the one who has jurisdiction over Utah, she can tackle the case herself or refer it to her colleagues. If she denies the request, Utah officials can then request the full court to consider it.
If last term’s wording of the strike down of California’s Proposition 8 is any inclination, the Court prefers the lower courts to battle it out, otherwise the wording would have been much more encompassing to include all states’ bans. The likelihood that the U.S. Supreme Court will actually take this on is small, particularly since it hasn’t even made its way through the entire court system. And the stay denial of the Tenth Circuit gives us hope for a happy outcome. In order for the court to grant the stay request, the state had to show it had potential of winning its appeal and that allowing marriages to continue would cause “irreparable harm.” If state officials couldn’t even convince the judges on that measure, then it will obviously take some major persuading to sway them.