SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A federal appeals court has refused yet again to stop gay marriage in Utah, making it more likely that same-sex weddings in the home of the Mormon church are here to stay for the immediate future.
The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' rejection of Utah's request for an emergency order to put gay marriage on hold marked yet another legal setback for the state. Utah lawyers have repeatedly struck out in their bid to block gay marriage, getting rejected on four occasions in recent days.
Utah's last chance to temporarily stop the marriages would be a long-shot request before U.S. Supreme Court. That's what the Utah attorney general's office is prepared to do, spokesman Ryan Bruckman said. Gov. Gary Herbert's office declined to comment on the decision.
"We're disappointed in the ruling, but we just have to take it to the next level," Bruckman said.
Carl Tobias, a constitutional law professor at Virginia's University of Richmond who has tracked legal battles for gay marriage, said he expects the U.S. Supreme Court to make a decision by Friday. He thinks Utah faces long odds to get their stay granted, considering two courts have already rejected it and marriages have been going on for days now.
"The longer this goes on, the less likely it becomes that any court is going to entertain a stay," Tobias said.
Judge Robert J. Shelby's decision last week to strike down a 2004 voter-approved gay marriage ban sent gay couples rushing to county clerk offices to get marriage licenses. About 700 gay couples have obtained licenses since Friday, with most of the activity in Salt Lake City.
The frenzy has put Utah at the center of the national debate on gay marriage given the state's long-standing opposition to same-sex weddings and its position as headquarters for the Mormon church. It made Utah the 18th state where gay couples can wed or will soon be able to marry.
The appeals court said in its short ruling Tuesday that a decision to put gay marriage on hold was not warranted, but said it put the case on the fast track for a full appeal of the ruling.
One of the couples that brought the case, Moudi Sbeity and Derek Kitchen, were driving home from the grocery store when their attorney called with the news. Sbeity said it's wonderful that multiple levels of courts are making it clear that there's no room for discrimination.