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10th Circuit Expedites Review of Utah's Same-Sex Marriage Ban

By Jenny Tsay, Esq. on January 07, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The Tenth Circuit will expedite its review of U.S. District Court Judge Robert J. Shelby's decision to quash Utah's same sex marriage ban.

The need for an expedited review follows SCOTUS's unanimous decision to put a hold on Judge Shelby's decision. The reasoning behind the High Court's quick decision is to let the lower courts delve into the constitutional issues of a state's power to limit marriage to a woman and a man, suggests SCOTUSblog.

So what does this mean for lawyers practicing in Utah and the Tenth Circuit?

Utah's Same-Sex Marriage Timeline

Lawyers dealing with Utah's same-sex marriage ban faced several changes in the law. Here's a timeline detailing the Utah's legal battle with Utah Constitutional Amendment 3.

  • Judge Shelby Strikes Down Ban: In response to complaints filed in March 2013 by same-sex couples in Utah, U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby struck down Utah's same-sex marriage ban. Judge Shelby opined that Utah's law was unconstitutional because the state had no rational basis for denying same-sex couples the right of equal protection and due process.
  • Utah Requests a Stay in District Court, Gets Denied: Following Judge Shelby's decision, Utah filed a request for a stay. The state argued that a stay is necessary because same-sex couples who were married in Utah would be irreparably harmed if the state succeeded in overturning the decision. Judge Shelby denied the stay, thus continuing to make same-sex marriage legal in Utah.
  • Utah Requests a Stay in the Tenth Circuit Three Times; Denied Twice: After their request for a stay was denied in the District Court, Utah quickly filed requests in the Tenth Circuit. A total of three requests were filed, with two of them being denied on procedural grounds.
  • Utah Files Emergency Stay with SCOTUS: After being rejected twice by the Tenth Circuit, Utah filed an emergency stay on Judge Shelby's decision with SCOTUS. Utah directed the motion to Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who's assigned to review emergency legal requests from the Tenth Circuit. The Court unanimously granted the stay and punted it back to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.

Looking Ahead

At this moment, same-sex marriage is still banned and practitioners must await the Tenth Circuit's decision. The case has been expedited and briefing will begin on January 27. Briefing should be completed by February 25, reports SCOTUSblog. No hearing date has been set.

While awaiting the Tenth Circuit's decision, Utah's same-sex marriage ban drops the number of states where gay marriage is legal to 17.

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January 10, 2014 Editor's note. This post has been edited to more accurately reflect the upcoming hearing and briefing dates.

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