This morning, just a few minutes after the last submission from the State of Utah had been received, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered a stay of a trial-court judge’s mandate that marriage licenses be issued to same-sex couples. This (apparently unanimous) decision should not be that surprising. The district-court judge had not only ruled that the U.S. Constitution mandated Utah redefine marriage but that it had to give effect to this novel ruling starting immediately (and Salt Lake County officials were remarkably expeditious in doing so). This after the judge had signaled in oral argument (held just two weeks earlier) that since the case was so difficult he would need at least a month and maybe more to decide.
To come to its decision today the Supreme Court needed only to accept that single federal judges cannot, without any oversight, upend the marriage system of a state in a matter of hours. The Tenth Circuit will now decide the case in an expedited process but with the knowledge that the Supreme Court has reserved the final word on the issue for itself.
It’s a modest step towards sanity but one for which the people of Utah are grateful.
— William C. Duncan is the director of the Marriage Law Foundation.