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WASHINGTON — In a minor victory for opponents of same-sex marriage, the Supreme Court ruled late Friday that Utah can ignore for now the marriages of more than 1,000 couples hitched there in late December and early January.

The apparently unanimous order blocked a decision issued by a federal district judge in May that required the state to recognize those marriages, even though it was appealing its loss on the broader question of allowing gay and lesbian marriages.

The state has since lost that appeal at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, but it will ask the Supreme Court to take the case. (Oklahoma lost a similar appeal on Friday.) In the meantime, it won the court's blessing to keep those early marriages on hold.

U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby in December became the first federal judge in the nation to declare a state same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional following the Supreme Court's ruling against the federal gay marriage ban last June. For two weeks, hundreds of couples tied the knot, but then the Supreme Court granted Utah's request for a stay pending appeal.

In May, District Judge Dale Kimball ruled that the state must recognize those 1,000-plus marriages, just as the federal government has done in most states that have legalized gay marriage. Recognition can affect issues ranging from adoption to state benefits. But the state successfully challenged that ruling by arguing that if it eventually wins its broader case, the marriages will be nullified.

Attorneys for the four couples who sought to have their marriages recognized had argued in court papers that the state was seeking to "effectively divorce those couples against their wishes."

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