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Federal judge rejects Utah state request to block same-sex marriages

A federal judge for the US District Court for the District of Utah [official website] on Monday rejected a request from lawyers for the state of Utah to block same-sex marriages [JURIST backgrounder] from occurring in the state. Over 100 weddings have been held since Utah's ban on same-sex marriage was overturned [JURIST report] on Friday by U.S. District Judge Robert J Shelby's [official profile] ruling [text, PDF] that the law violates the rights of gay and lesbian couples under the 14th Amendment [Cornell, text]. Over 300 same-sex couples obtained marriage licenses in Utah following Shelby's initial ruling permitting same-sex marriage. A federal appeals court on Sunday denied a request for an emergency stay of Shelby's ruling. The ruling, which resulted from a challenge [Reuters report] to Utah's state constitutional amendment that defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman and made Utah the 18th state to allow same-sex marriage, has been called an attempt to override the will of the people of Utah by Utah Governor Gary Herbert [official profile].

The rights of same-sex couples has been a controversial issue in the US and internationally. The US District Court for the District of Utah on Friday ruled that Utah's constitutional and statutory bans on same-sex marriage violated due process and equal protection guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution. The same day that the Utah ruling was issued, the Uganda parliament passed a bill limiting the rights of same-sex couples and imposing a penalty of up to life imprisonment [JURIST report] for involvement in homosexual relationships. Earlier that week, New Mexico's high court ruled that it is unconstitutional [JURIST report] to deny same-sex couples the right to marry. The same week, the US executive branch announced that it would begin processing Social Security payments [JURIST report] to surviving couples in accordance with a US Supreme Court ruling [JURIST report] issued this summer which struck down the Defense of Marriage Act [text], a federal statute that defined marriage as a legal union between a man and a woman for all federal purposes and refused to recognize any other type of marriage.

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