The Supreme Court halted same-sex marriages in Utah on Monday, returning to center stage the question of whether there is a constitutional right to marry that states may not withhold from gays and lesbians.RELATED: Supreme Court puts stay on same-sex marriage in Utah
The court’s two-sentence order stayed a decision from a federal judge in Salt Lake City that had cleared the way for same-sex marriages. About 1,000 such weddings were performed in the 17 days that followed — unions that the state’s attorney general said are now in “legal limbo.”
Monday’s order, with no recorded dissents, gave no reasoning for granting the stay and no clues about how the justices may ultimately decide the issue.
It was only six months ago that the court gave major victories to gay rights advocates in its first full consideration of same-sex marriage, including requiring the federal government to recognize such unions performed in states where they are legal.
But a flurry of legal challenges filed around the country since then could mean that the court will be called upon sooner rather than later to decide the fundamental question it sidestepped: whether state bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional.
Monday’s order indicated that the justices want lower courts to weigh in on the legal issue before giving what might seem to be even implied approval of the federal judge’s decision that the bans cannot stand. Without emergency action, the justices would not consider the issue in the court’s current term, which ends in June.