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BREAKING: Supreme Court Halts Same-Sex Marriages in Utah

BREAKING: Supreme Court Halts Same-Sex Marriages in Utah

BREAKING: Supreme Court Halts Same-Sex Marriages in Utah

Nearly 1,000 couples have already married, but now the Supreme Court has stepped in to stop it.

The U.S. Supreme Court has stepped in and stopped same-sex couples from continuing to marry in Utah.

Nearly 1,000 couples there have already married, following a ruling in December by a federal district judge that found Utah's ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. Both that judge and the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals refused to issue a stay of the ruling, which would have immediately stopped couples from obtaining legal marriage licenses.

The state's attorney general and governor appealed to the Supreme Court last month, arguing a stay is needed because there remains a chance the case could reach the nine justices and that they could rule against marriage equality.

Same-sex marriages in Utah must immediately stop and will await a ruling on a pending appeal to the Tenth Circuit, to which filings are due by the end of February. The case could then make its way to the Supreme Court. Here's how SCOTUS blog interpreted the consequences of today's ruling for the case going forward:

"The order appeared to have the support of the full Court, since there were no noted dissents. The ruling can be interpreted as an indication that the Court wants to have further exploration in lower courts of the basic constitutional question of state power to limit marriage to a man and a woman. Had it refused the state’s request for delay, that would have at least left the impression that the Court was comfortable allowing same-sex marriages to go forward in the 33 states where they are still banned."

After last year's landmark Supreme Court ruling in Windsor v. U.S., the federal government could no longer refuse to recognize a marriage considered legal by a state. But that decision has also launched legal battles at the state level, marshalled by LGBT activists who say states can no longer opt out of recognizing legal marriage from other states, and that such bans are unconstitutional anyway.

In a statement after today's ruling, the Human Rights Campaign highlighted the valuable impression already left on the public by seeing marriage equality in action.

“Utahns and other Americans have witnessed the joy that marriage has brought to hundreds of loving and committed couples over the past weeks," said HRC President Chad Griffin. "While it is disappointing that the dreams of many more will be put on hold, we know that in the end justice will be served and no couple will be excluded from this cherished institution."

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