As Gay Wedding Frenzy Hits Utah, State Seeks Emergency Stay of Ruling

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Dec. 21 2013 12:00 PM

As Gay Wedding Frenzy Hits Utah, State Seeks Emergency Stay of Ruling

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Couples line up to get marriage licenses in the Salt Lake County Clerk's office on Friday

Photo by Seth Anderson (@jsethanderson)

Talk about being a party pooper. As same-sex couples in Utah lined up until late in the evening to get a marriage license minutes after Judge Robert J. Shelby declared the state’s ban on gay marriage unconstitutional, the state requested an emergency stay and filed a notice of appeal. The Salt Lake County Clerk’s office was a scene of joy late Friday, when the government building appeared to become a sort of marriage emporium as weddings were performed in hallways and the lobby long after the office was scheduled to close, reports NPR.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert was not moved, saying he was "very disappointed an activist federal judge is attempting to override the will of the people of Utah.” Lawmakers in the state that is home to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints had passed laws to forbid marriage between same-sex couples and in 2004 voters approved a constitutional amendment restricting marriage as between a man and a woman. But the myriad of restrictions on same-sex couples are unconstitutional, Shelby ruled. "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,” he wrote. The ruling “is the first federal decision on a state law banning same-sex marriages or denying recognition of legal same-sex marriages since the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision this summer that struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA),” notes the Salt Lake Tribune.

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If the ruling stands, Utah would be the 18th state to allow members of the same sex to get a marriage license, points out the Associated Press. Yet so far at least it doesn’t seem like every County clerk’s office was willing to quickly get in the equality spirit. As scenes of joy filled the Salt Lake County Clerk’s office, others, including the Utah County clerk’s office in Provo denied marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.