Is same-sex marriage now legal in Utah forever? •
That depends. Hours after U.S. District Court Judge Robert J. Shelby ruled Utah’s ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional, the Utah attorney general’s office filed a notice of appeal with the 10th Circuit Court in Denver and asked Shelby to stay his decision.
What happens if the ruling is stayed? •
At present, same-sex marriage is legal in Utah. If the ruling is stayed, the ban will be reinstituted while the legal fight continues and no more marriage licenses will be issued. A plaintiff’s attorney said marriage licenses issued to that point will be valid, but the state said marriages would be declared invalid if its appeal succeeds.
So will churches be forced to perform gay weddings? •
No. In his ruling, Shelby noted that while the state did not make a religious freedom argument, nothing in his decision mandates any change for religious institutions, which “may continue to express their own moral viewpoints and define their own traditions about marriage.” If anything, Shelby said, the ruling “expands religious freedom” since churches that want to perform same-sex marriages can now do so.
Was the speed of the ruling a surprise? •
Not according to one attorney in the case. Peggy Tomsic, who represented the plaintiffs, said both sides filed a “massive” number of briefs in October and November, which the judge had read before he heard oral arguments on Dec. 5.