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Answering your questions on the same-sex marriage ruling
First Published Jun 25 2014 11:01 am • Last Updated Jun 25 2014 04:19 pm

Can same-sex couples go get a marriage license now?

No need to rush to the county clerk’s office.

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The 10th Circuit court’s ruling is certainly a boon to those who want to see same-sex marriage legalized, but there’s no reason for gay couples to make a repeat of the scene from last December, when hundreds rushed to county clerks offices and stood in long lines to get a marriage license.

The appellate court put an immediate stay on the ruling, pending a decision by the Supreme Court.

When would the Supreme Court act?

The question isn’t just when will the Supreme Court act, but if. So far, no district or appellate court has upheld state bans on gay marriage. The Supreme Court could just stand aside and see if a dispute on this legal question arises. That said, the 10th Circuit clearly wants the Supreme Court to weigh in, there’s no other reason for them to stay the decision otherwise. The state would have to appeal the case to the Supreme Court and the justices would then have to accept the case. That’s likely to take months.

Under what reasoning did the 10th Circuit say gay marriage should be legal in Utah?

The appellate judges focused their ruling on the 14th Amendment, which gives equal protection to American citizens, and their reading of the Constitution is that the legal rights to married couples has nothing to do with the gender of those in the union.

This is how they put it: "May a State of the Union constitutionally deny a citizen the benefit or protection of the laws of the State based solely upon the sex of the person that citizen chooses to marry?

Having heard and carefully considered the argument of the litigants, we conclude that, consistent with the United States Constitution, the State of Utah may not do so. We hold that the Fourteenth Amendment protects the fundamental right to marry, establish a family, raise children, and enjoy the full protection of a state’s marital laws. A state may not deny the issuance of a marriage license to two persons, or refuse to recognize their marriage, based solely upon the sex of the persons in the marriage union."

Does this ruling affect the more than 1,000 same-sex couples in Utah who already got married?

The short answer is: no. There is a separate legal case focused on whether the state of Utah can deny spousal benefits to the couples who married in the brief 17-day window when gay marriage was legal. That period ended when the Supreme Court issued a state in the case that the 10th Circuit ruled on Wednesday. Spousal benefits include property rights, tax benefits, inheritance, hospital visitation rights and adoption.

Last month, Federal Judge Dale A. Kimball ordered Utah to honor and recognize all of the same-sex marriages performed in the state. Attorney General Sean Reyes is seeking a stay on that decision.

Does this ruling affect Utah?

When a Circuit Court issues a ruling, it applies to all of the states within its jurisdiction. That means Wednesday’s ruling legalizes gay marriage in not only Utah, but also in Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico, Colorado and Oklahoma. Since the judges issued a stay, which the state of Utah requested, that means none of those states have to act on this ruling until either the Supreme Court weighs in or the stay is lifted.

The Tribune will continue to answer key questions about this ruling. You can send in your questions to mcanham@sltrib.com




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