Judge Denies Stay Of Utah Same-Sex Marriages, Unions Continue
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
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Marriages for gay couples will continue in Utah for the time being. A federal judge has denied a request to stay his own decision, a ruling he handed down last week. The judge ruled on Friday that Utah's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. From member station KUER in Salt Lake City, Terry Gildea reports.
TERRY GILDEA, BYLINE: At the Salt Lake County Clerk's office on Monday morning, Nathan Tanner and Jon Ayre exchanged vows.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: I know pronounce you married. You may kiss.
GILDEA: Both Tanner and Ayre are among more than 200 gay couples in Utah who have gotten married since last Friday when a federal judge overturned the state's law banning gay marriage. Nathan Tanner says it's something he thought would never happen in Utah.
NATHAN TANNER: I just feel - just a lot more whole. I'm complete. I just feel like a full citizen.
GILDEA: The attorney for the three gay couples who brought the lawsuit is Peggy Tomsic. She says Federal District Court Judge Robert Shelby is putting the rights of individuals above state law.
PEGGY TOMSIC: Fortunately, we have a judge who takes his oath of office seriously, which is to read, interpret and apply the United States Constitution and not be pressured by a moral or political majority.
GILDEA: But Tomsic understands the fight is not over. At the federal courthouse in downtown Salt Lake, attorneys for the state of Utah tried to convince Shelby to stop gay weddings so they could prepare an appeal to the 10th Circuit Court. But Shelby refused to the grant the stay. Immediately, state attorneys filed an emergency motion with the 10th Circuit to stop marriage licenses from being issued. However, weddings are still taking place. Attorney Philip Lott represents Utah. He says the state will continue to fight the ruling.
PHILIP LOTT: The state has concern not only for people that are against same-sex marriage. The state is also concerned about people that are entering into same-sex marriages that potentially could be declared void at some point in the future. And so it's a concern that applies to all citizens of the state of Utah.
GILDEA: The attorney who brought the lawsuit on behalf of three gay couples says she will file a motion opposing the state's emergency request. The ruling in Utah is particularly noteworthy because it's the home of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
The Mormon Church has put considerable resources into supporting laws that ban gay marriage, including California's Proposition 8. Meanwhile, county clerks across Utah are empowered to issue marriage licenses to gay couples for now. For NPR News, I'm Terry Gildea in Salt Lake City. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.