Love on Hold: U.S. Supreme Court Halts Utah Marriage Equality

Last year, there were resounding LGBT victories in the Supreme Court–this year, not so much.

On Monday morning, the U.S. Supreme Court put a temporary hold on same-sex marriages in Utah, pending the state’s appeal of a federal district court decision legalizing the unions.

Last week, Utah requested that Justice Sonia Sotomayor issue an “emergency” order stopping same-sex marriages in the state. She directed the matter to the full Supreme Court. The outcome? A unanimous order that has halted the issuance of hundreds of gay and lesbian marriage licenses across Utah.

A federal appeals court will decide whether Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage violates the Constitution. We all rejoiced in late December when a federal district court judge, Robert Shelby, declared that ban unconstitutional. It is his landmark ruling that the state is now appealing.

Pending Utah’s challenge, the Supreme Court order has ended same-sex nuptials in the state. Couples will have to wait for weeks or possibly months, as both sides battle it out in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Denver.

And what happens to the 1,000 Utah couples who managed to tie the knot? Are their marriages valid? They’ll be forced to wait to find out.

Last year, the Supreme Court advanced LGBT rights to an unprecedented degree, with its momentous 5-4 decision to strike down a key section of the Defense of Marriage Act. Now, with one voice, those justices have halted gay marriages in Utah. Such a turn of events suggests that our nation’s highest court is not yet prepared to advance marriage equality in every state.

“While it is disappointing that the dreams of many more will be put on hold, we know that in the end justice will be served and no couple will be excluded from this cherished institution,” said HRC President Chad Griffin, in a statement released Monday. “We still live in two Americas where full equality is within reach in one and another where even basic protections are non-existent. As the marriage equality map expands, history is on our side and we will not rest until where you live is not a barrier to living your dreams.”