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Supreme Court Temporarily Halts Gay Marriage in Utah

WASHINGTON (CN) - Utah's gay marriage ban will continue until a federal appeals court decides the fate of a permanent injunction, the U.S. Supreme Court said Monday.

U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby issued the injunction on Dec. 20 after finding that the Beehive State had denied gay and lesbian couples the right to due process and equal protection.

The ruling came nine months after six Utahans - Derek Kitchen and Moudi Sbeity, Karen Archer and Kate Call, and Laurie Wood and Kody Partridge - sued Gov. Gary Herbert, former Attorney General John Swallow and Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen.

The couples wanted to be married in Utah, or had been legally married elsewhere.

Utah claimed that its definition of marriage accorded with the judgment of its citizens, but Judge Shelby found that "the right to marry is intertwined with the rights to privacy and intimate association, and an individual's choices related to marriage are protected because they are integral to a person's dignity and autonomy."

Shelby cited the U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision in Windsor v. United States , which struck down a provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act that defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

"The Constitution's protection of the individual rights of gay and lesbian citizens is equally dispositive whether this protection requires a court to respect a state law, as in Windsor, or strike down a state law, as the plaintiffs ask the court to do here," Shelby wrote.

With last month's ruling, Utah, a state created by the conservative Mormon church, became the 18th state to allow same-sex marriage.

Shelby had slammed the state's laws against gay marriage as "demean[ing] the dignity of these same-sex couples for no rational reason. Accordingly, the court finds that these laws are unconstitutional."

Hundreds of impromptu weddings were performed at county clerk offices throughout Utah after the ruling, including ceremonies performed by Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Beck at the historic Salt Lake City and County Building.

The Supreme Court stayed the permanent injunction without comment in a brief order Monday. Shelby's injunction is stayed pending the 10th Circuit disposition of the case.

Magleby & Greenwood represents the plaintiffs in the case.

The ACLU, which filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case, noted that the 10th Circuit had previously declined to stay Shelby's injunction.

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