Laurie Wood, left, and Kody Partridge embrace after being told they are officially married by the Rev. Curtis Price in the lobby of the Salt Lake County office on Dec. 20 in Salt Lake City.
(USA TODAY) -- A federal judge has ruled that gay marriage in Utah may continue,
making Utah the 18th state in addition to the District of Columbia where
gay and lesbian couples can marry.
Judge Richard Shelby on Monday
denied a request by the state that sought to halt gay marriage until
the appeals process plays out.
The same judge overturned Utah's ban on same-sex marriage Friday, ruling it is unconstitutional.
Utah lawyers are expected to ask a higher court to put the process on hold.
thrilled that this decision continues the process of decisions across
the country that support the right of gay and lesbian couples to get
married and have their love and families protected equally under the
law," said Brian Silva, executive director of Marriage Equality. The New
York City-based group promotes the rights of gay and lesbian couples to
The state of Utah is now expected to appeal the decision to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.
"I believe that this is the first marriage equality case that they will have heard," Silva said.
county clerk in Salt Lake City immediately began issuing licenses
Friday, and hundreds more gay couples were being married across the
state on Monday.
Monday Utah Gov. Gary Herbert named a new state
attorney general. Salt Lake City attorney Sean Reyes will replace John
Swallow, who announced his resignation in November. Swallow cited
"multiple investigations" as his reason for resigning. He has denied any
Reyes will serve as the state's top law enforcement
officer until a special election can be held in November 2014. The
announcement came as state officials scrambled to halt same-sex
marriages in Utah following Shelby's ruling.
The ruling also drew
attention given Utah's long-standing opposition to gay marriage and its
position as headquarters for the Mormon church.
Lawyers for the state are waging a legal battle on several fronts as they seek to stop the same-sex weddings.
They were twice rejected by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
In Salt Lake County, hundreds of couples lined up at the clerk's office by the time doors opened to marry.
going to do it until the judge says stop," said Kerri Nakamura, a staff
assistant for a county councilman who was helping people process
Shelby on Friday overturned the state's same-sex
marriage ban, ruling that Utah's law violates gay and lesbian couples'
rights under the 14th Amendment.
The decision that has put Utah in the national spotlight because of its long-standing opposition to gay marriage.
Sunday, a federal appeals court rejected the state's emergency request
to stay the ruling, saying it couldn't rule on a stay since Shelby
hasn't acted on the motion before him. The court quickly rejected a
second request from Utah on Monday.
Following Shelby's surprising
ruling Friday afternoon, gay and lesbian couples rushed to a county
clerk's office in Salt Lake City to get marriage licenses. More than 100
couples wed as others cheered them on in what became an impromptu
celebration an office building about three miles from the headquarters
of the Mormon church.
About 25 couples lined up outside the
clerk's office in Davis County on Monday morning, the Standard-Examiner
reported. The first couple showed up around 6 a.m. and married
immediately after receiving their license.
For now, a state
considered as one of the most conservative in the nation has joined the
likes of California and New York to become the 18th state where same-sex
couples can legally wed. Legal experts say that even if a judge puts a
halt to the weddings, the licenses that have already been issued will
likely still be valid.
Utah is home to The Church of Jesus Christ
of Latter-day Saints, which was one of the leading forces behind
California's short-lived ban on same-sex marriage, Proposition 8, which
voters approved in 2008. The church said Friday that it stands by its
support for "traditional marriage" and that it hopes a higher court
validates its belief that marriage is between a man and woman.
Shelby's 53-page ruling, he said the constitutional amendment Utah
voters approved in 2004 violates gay and lesbian couples' rights to due
process and equal protection under the 14th Amendment. Shelby said the
state failed to show that allowing same-sex marriages would affect
opposite-sex marriages in any way.
The decision drew a swift and
angry reaction Republican Gov. Gary Herbert, who said he was
disappointed in an "activist federal judge attempting to override the
will of the people of Utah." The state quickly took steps to appeal the
ruling and halt the process, setting up Monday's hearing before Shelby.
ruling has thrust Shelby into the national spotlight. He has been on
the bench for less than two years, appointed by President Barack Obama
after GOP Sen. Orrin Hatch recommended him in November 2011.
served in the Utah Army National Guard from 1988 to 1996 and was a
combat engineer in Operation Desert Storm. He graduated from the
University of Virginia law school in 1998 and clerked for the U.S.
District Judge J. Thomas Greene in Utah, then spent about 12 years in
private practice before he became a judge.
Check out some of our most read stories from 2013:
#shortyellows: Florida quietly shortened yellow lights
Terrorism Warning: Memo says terrorists practicing dry-runs on Florida flights
Kittens shot: Officer shoots kittens in front of children
Courtroom apology: Woman apologizes for flipping off judge
Weird ice: Strange, giant circles appear on frozen pond
Controversial Club: College student organizes "White Student Union"
CFO Trouble: School administrative chief in trouble over her porn sex blog
Warning Shot Wife: Mother gets 20 years for firing warning shots at abusive husband
Science Arrest: Teen girl arrested over science project explosion
Wait, WHAT?? Dog shoots man in the leg with a handgun
Popular photo galleries:
Faces of Meth: Devastating before and after photos of meth abusers
Travon Martin Shooting: Trayvon Martin crime scene photos and George Zimmerman injury photos
Hooters Winners: Winners of the 2013 Hooters swimsuit pageant
Rejected: Funny Florida license plates rejected by the DMV ***warning graphic***
Deadly sinkhole: Home collapses, man dies in giant sinkhole
Florida Sex Offenders: Look up sex offenders in any Florida neighborhood here
Restaurant Inspections: Look up inspection reports for any Florida restaurant here