(Photo: Javier Brosch/Fotolia.)

The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to block same-sex marriages in Oregon pending an appeal of a federal court decision striking down that state’s ban.

The court’s action stood in contrast to its decision in January, when it issued a stay in a separate appeal of a federal district court decision invalidating Utah’s same-sex marriage ban. The state’s appeal in that case, Herbert v. Kitchen, is awaiting a decision following arguments in April before a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.

The justices issued their decision in the Oregon case without comment and after Justice Anthony Kennedy referred the application for a stay to the full court. Unlike Utah’s stay request, which was sought by the state attorney general, the Oregon request came from the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), an organization opposed to same-sex marriages.

NOM had tried unsuccessfully to intervene in the lower court case, Geiger v. Kitzhaber, after the Oregon attorney general declined to defend the same-sex marriage ban. U.S. District Judge Michael McShane and the Ninth Circuit had rejected NOM’s request for a stay pending its appeal of the denial of intervention.

NOM, represented by John Eastman of the Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence, told the justices that, since the Utah stay had been granted, “a half-dozen other federal district courts have rendered judgments holding that the long-standing definition of marriage is unconstitutional but, in each case, the judgments have been stayed pending appeal, either by the district court itself or by the court of appeals.”

Hundreds of same-sex marriage couples reportedly have obtained marriage licenses since McShane’s May 19 decision holding the state ban unconstitutional.

Contact Marcia Coyle at mcoyle@alm.com.