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US Supreme Court Temporarily Stops Gay Marriage in Utah

FILE - Chris Serrano, left, and Clifton Webb embrace after being married, as people wait in line to get licenses outside of the marriage division of the Salt Lake County Clerk's Office in Salt Lake City, Utah, Dec. 20, 2013.
The U.S. Supreme Court has put on hold gay marriages in the western state of Utah while a federal appeals court considers the issue further.

The decision Monday blocks any new same-sex marriages in the conservative state where nearly two-thirds of all residents belong to the Mormon church.

Utah changed its constitution in 2004 to ban gay marriage, but a U.S. District Judge ruled in December that the ban violates gay couples' rights.

December's ruling led hundreds of gay couples to get married. It also prompted the state's attorney general to appeal to the Supreme Court for an emergency stay of the order while the office appeals to a higher court.

The Supreme Court's order Monday was only two sentences long, and did not reveal anything about the justices' views on the matter.

Last year, the Supreme Court struck down a 1996 federal law that defined marriage as being between a man and a woman. In a 5-4 decision, the court said the government cannot bar same-sex couples from getting the same tax, health and pension benefits as heterosexual couples.

In another 5-4 decision last year, the Supreme Court ruled that backers of a California law banning gay marriage cannot appeal a lower court decision that struck down that measure.

The court did not specifically rule on whether it is constitutional for individual states to ban gay marriage.

More than 30 U.S. states ban gay marriage, while 17 states plus the District of Columbia have legalized same sex marriage.