Federal judge denies request to stay UT marriage ruling; the freedom to marry continues

Today, December 23, 2013, U.S. District Court Judge Robert J. Shelby in Utah denied a request from the state of Utah to stay a ruling from Friday that struck down laws prohibiting the freedom to marry for same-sex couples as unconstitutional. 

The stay was denied in Kitchen v. Herbert, a March 2013 lawsuit seeking the freedom to marry for same-sex couples in Utah. On Friday, December 20, the judge ruled that laws restricting the freedom to marry to different-sex couples in Utah were unconstitutional, conflicting with the United States Constitution's guarantees of equal protection and due process under the law.

On Sunday, December 22, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals denied an "emergency motion for temporary stay" in the case, pending the appeal that the Governor and Attorney General of Utah announced plans to pursue earlier in the weekend. Read the denial of the stay HERE. On Monday morning, before the trial court issued a verdict on the stay, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals again denied a more complete request from the state. 

It appears that as the state continues its attempts to appeal Judge Shelby's ruling, the freedom to marry will remain in effect in Utah. 

On Friday, Freedom to Marry's National Campaign Director Marc Solomon applauded the great news about the freedom to marry coming to Utah. He said:

This is a tremendous day for loving and committed same-sex couples and their families in Utah, building on the momentum of eight other states that have ended their restrictions on marriage for same-sex couples in 2013. The federal district judge has done the right thing by affirming that marriage is a fundamental freedom for all people, gay and non-gay – for all of us who believe in liberty and fairness. We hope that officials implement this ruling statewide. As same-sex couples celebrate their weddings, more people will see that sharing in the freedom to marry helps families and harms no one.

On Friday afternoon - as well as this morning, Monday - hundreds of same-sex couples from across the state flocked to county clerks' offices in Utah, thrilled that at last they have their chance to be legally married in their home state. 

One of the first couples to marry was Michael Adam Ferguson and J. Seth Anderson from Salt Lake City. 

Other couples, like Jo and Lindi Barney in Salt Lake City also married on Friday. "The atmosphere on Friday was electric," Jo said when she shared her family's story with Freedom to Marry this weekend. "I was so proud to be standing next to so many people who had dropped everything to run down and get married - people who had been denied the fundamental right for so long. They weren't bitter that they were getting married in hallways," Jo added. "They weren't angry that their required witnesses were complete strangers in line behind them. They didn't mind that their wedding day wasn't all about them, because they were sharing it with hundreds of total strangers. No - they were all there smiling, hugging each other, crying tears of joy. They were finally being treated as equals - and they were enjoying that moment."

On Monday, as county clerks' offices opened in order to issue marriage licenses, hundreds of same-sex couples were lined up, eager to receive their marriage license in case the court this morning issued a stay.

Couples like Coral and Andrea, who have been together for 25 years, were able to tie the knot on Monday. Lines at the county clerks' offices across the state wrapped through the hallways, filled with joyful couples celebrating this amazing news. 

Jim Dalrymple of the Salt Lake Tribune live-tweeted celebrations on Monday in Salt Lake City. One of the most moving stories he told in his 140 characters involved Heather and Jax, a couple who could not arrive at the court house in time on Friday but who were able to marry this morning, with both of their mothers standing there to support them. 

The scenes at the county clerks' offices on Friday and Monday were incredible demonstrations of why marriage matters to same-sex couples: They showed, without a doubt, that no one is hurt when same-sex couples are permitted to marry - but same-sex couples' lives are infinitely changed and improved. 

Learn more about Kitchen v. Herbert, and learn more about the freedom to marry in Utah HERE.