EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

World/National News

December 22, 2013

Gay marriage catches conservative Utah off guard

(Continued)

The 28-year-old from Cottonwood Heights and 34-year-old Alan Britton were among the dozens of waiting couples turned away in Salt Lake City on Friday even though the county clerk’s office stayed open for an extra two hours and issued licenses to more than a hundred couples after U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby’s ruling.

London and Britton said they planned to spend the weekend finding wedding rings. London said they would return around 6 a.m. Monday to wait for a license and marry “while we still can.”

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, a Republican, said in a statement Saturday that the ruling “has created a chaotic situation” in the state. He urged Shelby to grant a motion to stay the decision until the state’s appeal can be heard.

Acting Attorney General Brian Tarbet said his office would bring the stay motion to Shelby by 9 a.m. on Monday. If the judge doesn’t immediately rule, state officials would also ask the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to grant the stay.

Shelby, a recent appointee by President Barack Obama, said Utah’s ban violated the constitutional rights of gay couples and ruled that Utah failed to show that allowing same-sex marriages would affect other marriages in any way. GOP Sen. Orrin Hatch recommended Shelby for appointment in 2011.

Carl Tobias, a constitutional law professor at Virginia’s University of Richmond who has tracked legal battles for gay marriage, said Saturday that Shelby’s ruling was “fairly strong” and the judge seemed to indicate he didn’t think the state had a good case.

Tobias guessed if an emergency stay is granted, it could come as early as Monday or Tuesday and stop the gay couples from getting licenses.

As the appeal plays out, he said a final decision on gay marriage in Utah is at least months down the road.

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