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About 700 marriage licenses issued in Utah since judge's ruling

1,500 rally to celebrate unexpected decision that led to gay weddings in Utah

Published: Monday, Dec. 23 2013 6:50 p.m. MST

Heather Collins, front, and Jax Collins apply for a marriage license at the Salt Lake County clerk's office, Monday, Dec. 23, 2013. U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby denied a motion by the state of Utah to halt same-sex marriages pending an appeal.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Hundreds of same-sex couples waited for hours at the Salt Lake County Clerk's Office in a race against the clock Monday as Utah officials sought to close an unexpected window allowing them to wed in the state.

But a stay of the ruling that legalized same-sex marriage in Utah never came, opening the way for many gay couples to obtain marriage licenses. In all, about 700 licenses across the state have been issued since Friday's ruling.

Approximately 1,500 people gathered Monday night at a rally at the Salt Lake City-County Building to celebrate the surprise decision from U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby that led to same-sex weddings in Utah.

The crowed chatted happily with each other. Many hugged and most seemed oblivious to the cold. Several joined in with a band, singing to a Bob Marley tune: “One love, one heart. Let’s get together and feel all right.”

Several people held signs that said “Love equals love” while others waved rainbow flags.

Andrea Smith came to the rally with her husband, his parents, and her brother-in-law and his partner, Matt Alder. She said she hopes Alder will also soon be her brother-in-law.

“We want to be a part of history,” she said. “This is the civil rights movement that my parents talked about. This is happening today and we’re proud to be a part of it.”

Alder said as an former member of the military, he is thrilled to have the same rights that he fought for.

“The thought that I could finally actually spend the rest of my life with my partner if I wanted to, that I had the right to, it’s the most important thing for me,” he said, getting emotional. “That I could finally have that same happiness everyone else has, that is huge.”

While many lined up Sunday night at the Salt Lake County Clerk's Office, others trickled in through the early morning waiting for the office to open at 8 a.m., just an hour before Shelby began hearing arguments to stay his ruling that overturned the state's constitutional definition of marriage.

A team of frenzied clerks hurried to issue as many marriage licenses as possible while a team of volunteer clergy and officiants filled the lobby and wandered the halls performing marriages for cheering and weeping strangers.

Salt Lake County Attorney Sim Gill hovered nearby, waiting to halt the barrage of weddings if the emergency stay was granted.

But it wasn't.

"As far as we're concerned, we are going to continue to issue those licenses appropriately," Gill said, drowned out by a cheer that swept through the building as word spread that Shelby had denied the state's motion for a stay.

The county processed everyone in the massive line Monday, issuing 353 licenses, Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen reported. An additional 124 licenses were granted in Salt Lake County on Friday. Both days beat the office's all-time record of about 80 licenses, she said.

Same-sex couples also rushed to get marriage licenses Monday in other county offices across the state, and 21 counties were offering them.

Davis County issued 121 marriage licenses and Weber County issued 95.

After several hours of deliberation, representatives from Sanpete and Sevier counties announced Monday afternoon they would have licenses available on Tuesday. However, clerks in Box Elder, Juab, Piute and San Juan counties were not issuing licenses, saying they were awaiting further direction on how to do so.

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