(CNN) – Utah will not recognize the hundreds of same-sex marriages that were temporarily allowed by a federal judge's ruling but before the Supreme Court issued an injunction, the state announced Wednesday.
Officials say more than a thousand marriage licenses between gay and lesbian couples were issued in the 17 days between the initial ruling and the high court's Monday order blocking enforcement.
"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," said the governor's Chief of Staff Derek Miller in a letter to cabinet officials.
"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."
U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby concluded on December 20 the decision that a state law banning same-sex marriage, approved in 2004, conflicted with the constitutional guarantees of equal protection and due process. That prompted many counties to begin issuing marriages licenses, but the state then appealed to the Supreme Court.
The justices' two-sentence order blocks enforcement until the constitutional questions are fully resolved. A federal appeals court could hold oral arguments as soon as March. A ruling there could affect all states within the court's jurisdiction: Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Kansas.
But in the meantime, that left the tricky, unresolved question about the status of those who received marriage licenses after Shelby's ruling.
"The original laws governing marriage in Utah return to effect pending final resolution by the courts," said the letter from the governor's office. "It is important to understand that those laws include not only a prohibition of performing same-sex marriages but also recognizing same-sex marriages."
State officials had sharply criticized Shelby's ruling, and his order same-sex marriages be allowed to take place immediately, saying it created legal confusion.
"This is the uncertainty that we were trying to avoid by asking the [federal] District Court for a stay immediately after its decision. It is very unfortunate that so many Utah citizens have been put into this legal limbo," said the state's attorney general Sean Reyes earlier this week.
More recently, same-sex marriage legal battles have become prominent in states where it is prohibited.
But the Utah case is a broad challenge that goes to the heart of constitutional law as it applies to the state ban and could wind up back at the Supreme Court. Same-sex couples say laws like Utah's violate their equal protection and due process rights.
"It could be the challenge that a lot of people have been waiting for, which is does the United States Constitution guarantee a right to marriage for everyone," said CNN Senior Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin.
"That's the issue in this case and it's now working its way through the courts. It could take quite some time."
The Supreme Court ruled more narrowly this past summer on separate issues involving same-sex marriage.
It cleared the way for those unions in California to resume and rejected parts of a federal law, concluding same-sex spouses legally married in a state may receive federal benefits.
Most states still ban the practice, but polls show more support for it publicly.
The case is Herbert v. Kitchen.
Doubling down in Utah. Well, this will open the door to more lawsuits- which the state will lose.
Sorry, but they're LEGALLY married however you try to cut it. Now get back to your day to day lives and multiple wives.
Misleading headline is misleading.
Why not? Utah seems to have a problem with equal rights.
@ Dutch, so typical, gays ok, but multi wives not ??? Who cares who marries who ??? These is just a more waste
for the middle class to pay for. you cant make this stuff up.
Oh no! That means they are still living in sin! This is a travesty!
Please sue the pants off this state.
If gay/same-marriage can be legalized why cannot polygamy be legalized?
Did anyone read the poll released yesterday that shows Salt Lake City is the #3 Gay Capital of America? (SF is #11).
St. Louis is pretty sweet also – #2 I believe.
And no ... this is not a troll – they rated the Gay Mecca's of America.
Utah! Ha ha ha ha ha !
This is a pretty cut and dried case. Under the equal protection clause, Utah is not able to decide not to recognize some marriage licenses simply because of the anatomy of the people to whom they were issued.
Sorry, Utah, gay marriage is going to happen. Get over it.
The state has 12 days to file the argument for it's appeal with the 10th Circuit before it's appeal is rejected automatically.
It was clear from the start that this was heading into the courts, all the way to the top. In effect this news story is a 'progress report' (or in this case, 'regress report') on the inevitable. Note the Utah authorities stated as much.
ITS A GOOD DAY!
I love it! A state standing up for the 10th amendment. Refusing to let Uncle Sam control it. The overreach of the federal government is appalling.
You mean bob and mark aren't really married? Would they really have been married if the government alowed it.? Not really. Its a legal make-believe situation to get votes for politicians who sell out their principles . This whole gay agenda is a farce.
What is the state of Utah afraid of?
Hey, I have a great idea. Let's NOT base 21st Century US social policy on a collection of Greco-Roman Jewish mythology cobbled together into a book 500 years before the Dark Ages.
I love it! A state standing up for the 10th amendment. Refusing to left Uncle Sam control it. The overreach of the federal government is appalling.
Looks like the national guard needs to be called in
California tried all these legal games, and lost in the end. Utah will lose as well.
Get with the 21st Century.
Oh UTAH, those marriages are legal, The lawuits that are about to follow this decision will probably break UTAH's pocketbook.
So what, it is not like they are pregnant!
Stand Strong Utah!
When one things traditional marriage one naturally thinks Utah.
Let me get this straight (no pun). Conservative Christians want the federal government to stay out of state's issues and out of churches (except for tax exempt status!) but DO want State government and the Federal government too if possible to regulate in our bedroom and personal relationships. I wonder if they would still feel this way if their town passed an ordinance recognizing gay marriage but making hetero marriages illegal.