SALT LAKE CITY – It was announced Wednesday that the state of Utah will not recognize same-sex marriages performed in the state, pending its appeal of a federal district court ruling that struck down Utah’s same-sex marriage ban as unconstitutional.
Over 1,000 same-sex marriages were performed across Utah between Dec. 20, when the original ruling occurred and Jan. 6, when the U.S. Supreme Court granted a stay, or pause, on the lower court’s ruling while Utah appeals its case. This put an immediate pause on same-sex marriages being performed in the state and effectively re-established, for the time being, Amendment 3 as state law once again.
In the words of Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, it has also left same-sex marriages in the state in a state of “legal limbo.” Initially unsure with what to do about the marriages that have already taken place, both the attorney general and Utah Gov. Gary Herbert released statements Wednesday announcing the state will currently not recognize those marriages.
“The stay means that Utah’s laws defining marriage, including Amendment 3, are again in effect and the county clerks in all of Utah’s 29 counties, since the entry of the stay on Jan. 6, are unable to issue licenses to marry persons of the same sex,” Reyes said in a statement.
“The state can neither recognize nor confer new marital benefits,” he said. “While the ultimate validity of such marriages is subject to the decision of a higher court, it is clear that the state is bound by law to limit any benefits attaching after the stay.”
Utah’s Amendment 3 defines marriage as being between one man and one woman only, and does not recognize any other union.
Herbert sent a letter to state agencies directing them to put recognition of same-sex marriages on hold.
“Based on counsel from the Attorney General’s Office regarding the Supreme Court decision, state recognition of same-sex marital status is on hold until further notice,” Herbert said in the statement. “Please understand this position is not intended to comment on the legal status of those same-sex marriages – that is for the courts to decide. The intent of this communication is to direct state agency compliance with current laws that prohibit the state from recognizing same-sex marriages.”
While benefits afforded to married couples in the state have been put on hold for now married same-sex couples in the state, those marriages themselves are not considered invalidated. They can still be recognized in other states – just not the one they originated in.
Marriage equality advocates are not pleased with the state’s direction.
Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin issued the following statement:
“Today’s decision harms hundreds of Utah families and denies them the respect and basic protections that they deserve as legally married couples,” Griffin said.
“Gov. Herbert has once again planted himself firmly on the side of discrimination by preserving the second-class status he believes gay and lesbian Utahans merit,” he said. “These families deserve better and I have no doubt the courts will soon grant them the justice and equality that our Constitution demands.”
- On the EDge: Same-sex marriage isn’t dead, just on hold
- U.S. Supreme Court halts same-sex marriages in Utah
- Utah appeals to U.S. Supreme Court to halt same-sex marriages
- Tenth Circuit denies Utah’s appeal for stay on same-sex marriage ruling
- Marriage licenses issued, weddings had for same-sex couples in Washington County
- Judge denies Utah’s request for emergency stay, same-sex marriage decision
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