As important as the fact that the Tenth Circuit denied the state of Utah’s request for stay from Judge Shelby’s ruling that the state’s gay-marriage ban is unconstitutional, is the reason they did so.
A stay pending appeal is governed by the following factors: (1) the likelihood of success on appeal; (2) the threat of irreparable harm if the stay is not granted; (3) the absence of harm to opposing parties if the stay is granted; and (4) any risk of harm to the public interest. Homans v. City of Albuquerque, 264 F.3d 1240, 1243 (10th Cir.2001); 10th Cir. R. 8.1. The first two factors are the most critical, and they require more than a mere possibility of success and irreparable harm, respectively. Nken v. Holder, 556 U.S. 418, 434-35 (2009).
Having considered the district court’s decision and the parties’ arguments concerning the stay factors, we conclude that a stay is not warranted.
In other words, the Tenth Circuit looked primarily at two things. They asked themselves if the state was likely to succeed on appeal and found the answer to be “no”. And they took the state’s chief argument for stay – that allowing marriages now will harm the gay people who will only have their marriages reversed later – and said “we don’t think so.”
We don’t know why the Court delayed responding until so late in the day. It may be that they made efforts to determine or ponder the general feeling of the other circuit members. But even if not, considering that the two judges considering stay, Holmes and Bacharach, are among the conservative members of the Tenth Circuit, this may bode well for the appeal.