A request by the state of Utah to temporarily block gay marriage there is set to heard on Monday by a federal judge, as the state appeals a ruling by the judge last week that overturned its ban on same-sex nuptials.
Utah Governor Gary Herbert was expected to ask U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby to stay his own ruling, which found Utah's ban on gay marriage unconstitutional, even as about 900 couples lined up in the cold early morning on Monday to obtain marriage licenses from the county clerk's office in Salt Lake City.
A federal appeals court in Denver on Sunday denied the state's request for an emergency stay that would prevent gay couples from continuing to wed while the appeal is heard. On Monday, the federal appeals court in Denver again declined to issue an emergency stay, denying a renewed request from Utah state officials filed shortly after midnight.
Last Friday, Utah became the 18th state to allow same-sex marriage.
Shelby ruled on a challenge by three gay couples to a state constitutional amendment that defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman, deciding that Utah's ban on same-sex marriage violated the rights of gay couples to due process and equal protection under the U.S. Constitution.
"I am very disappointed an activist federal judge is attempting to override the will of the people of Utah," Herbert said in a statement after the ruling.
Advocates of gay marriage have won repeated victories in recent years as a growing portion of the American electorate has taken a more favorable view of same-sex relationships.
A year and a half ago, just six states and the District of Columbia recognized same-sex unions.
In June, the U.S. Supreme Court delivered a landmark victory for gay rights by overturning a federal law that barred federal benefits for same-sex marriages in states where such marriages are legal.
On Thursday, the New Mexico Supreme Court decided to allow same-sex marriage across the state. In November, the governors of Hawaii and Illinois signed legislation to legalize same-sex weddings.