Appeals court: Utah ruling allowing same-sex marriages stands

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(Photo: MGN Online)

A federal judge declared Utah's Amendment Three, which defines marriage as solely between a man and a woman, as unconstitutional Friday. (Credit: CNN)

A federal judge declared Utah’s Amendment Three, which defines marriage as solely between a man and a woman, as unconstitutional Friday. (Credit: CNN)

SALT LAKE — Utah officials hoping to block same-sex marriage in the state faced another setback Tuesday after a federal appeals court ruled against them.

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals denied a request from Utah officials to temporarily stay a lower court’s ruling that allows same-sex marriage there.

The court said the stay wasn’t warranted, but it ordered that the appeal process be expedited.

The ruling allows same-sex marriages to continue in Utah while the appeal goes forward.

On Friday, U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby struck down Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage, drawing national attention and sending throngs of couples to Utah clerks’ offices seeking marriage certificates.

Shelby said lawyers for the state had offered no evidence that opposite-sex marriage would be affected and that their “fears and speculations are insufficient to justify the state’s refusal to dignify the family relationships of its gay and lesbian citizens.”

Utah Gov. Gary R. Herbert criticized Shelby’s ruling of last week, calling him “an activist federal judge.”

At the time, Herbert said he was working with his legal counsel and the acting attorney general “to determine the best course to defend traditional marriage within the borders of Utah.”

Utah voters approved a law banning same-sex marriage in 2004.

Shelby said 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.

“Accordingly, the court finds that these laws are unconstitutional,” he said.

Same-sex marriage is banned by constitutional amendment or state law in: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

It is legal in 17 other U.S states and the District of Columbia: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

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