Utah will not recognize same-sex marriages performed before high court stay
January 8th, 2014
01:17 PM ET
11 months ago

Utah will not recognize same-sex marriages performed before high court stay

(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.


Filed under: Same-sex marriage • Utah
soundoff (205 Responses)
  1. Raymond Cottengaim

    blast it all, I dont have a law dregree when I need one.I could be rich filing million dollar lawsuits against the state. .How does one spell bankrupt "UTAH"

    January 8, 2014 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  2. Ethan

    Oh your ignorance is bliss. If your referring to the church and people in the state of Utah as polygamist your absolutely WRONG. If your going to comment make sure your facts are correct. The church and people of Utah don't practice polygamy and haven't since the 1890's.

    Carry on with the silly politics but understand doctrine before you quote nonsense.

    January 8, 2014 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  3. Are you serious

    Are you serious that your image of Utah is traditional marriage? Utah has an image of Mormon with multiple wives. That's not a traditional marriage. Utah is the last state I would go visit. Good luck with all of the law suits Utah will be facing. More taxes coming to Utah citizens to pay for those lawsuits.

    January 8, 2014 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  4. bczu

    All bigots that have the audacity to stand against equal rights should have their name put in a book. And 10-15 years down the line the book will be sent to their children and grand children. Let them walk up to them and ask why they felt it was needed to stand against the happiness of others.

    January 8, 2014 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  5. Native Oregonian

    Utah, you will lose in the end. Your intolerance, bigotry, and ignorance will only be allowed to last so long. Men love the ability to have multiple wives in your state, it works well for them. I hope the lawsuits financially break your state. Oh, but the Mormon church will financially bankroll you, as will many right wingnut organizations for awhile. But, just like California, you will eventually lose.

    If this "now you are married, now you're not" crap were happening to the heteos, there would be demonstrations and boycotts in your streets. Hmm. Good plan. Maybe that's what needs to happen.

    January 8, 2014 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  6. Justin

    I forgot that who other people marry directly impacts other people. Buch of narrowed minded fools.

    January 8, 2014 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  7. Ralph

    This is the proper legal action to take.

    January 8, 2014 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  8. Dean

    It looks as if Utah will get it in the end.

    January 8, 2014 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  9. John

    Que up the gay hate speech... here it comes on how we will all burn in hell if gays get married. Need to just legalize gay marriage at the national level. Crazy that two people can be married in one state and more or go on vacation in another and there marriage isn't recognized.

    January 8, 2014 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  10. Roland

    @Tim, the LDS cult leaders who have the oligarchy on this state love to flaunt that they think nobody is above them.

    January 8, 2014 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  11. Jonline

    Didn't Utah just create the type of 'harm' that turns cases? There is no harm to Utah in leaving them be. There is harm to the couples. Utah just basically passed national gay marriage.

    January 8, 2014 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  12. Lamar S.

    Just a temporary setback. The tide is turning in American and that whole "Liberty and Justice FOR ALL" thing is finally catching on. Let Freedom Ring!

    January 8, 2014 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  13. John B.

    I was also raised in Utah and this breaks my heart. I sincerely don't understand why so many people are against gay couples getting married.

    January 8, 2014 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  14. jinx9to88

    I thought the GOP thugs were all about equal rights for all citizens? o thats right only when it benefits them, what was I thinking.

    January 8, 2014 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  15. tb63

    Jack 2 "this whole gay agenda is a farce."

    Pretty much. I've been out since '96, and I still don't have any clue what this supposed agenda is.

    January 8, 2014 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  16. Bronco Bomma

    State's rights!

    January 8, 2014 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  17. Joe

    @Tim: Wow, the judicial branch thinks it's above the people now? (Remember, 2/3 Utah voted to uphold for traditional marriage.)

    January 8, 2014 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  18. Stacy

    I hate living in this state. The LDS religion has its hands in everything and they feel they are above federal law. It disgusts me that the same families that have been living here contributing to the community and paying taxes are having those tax dollars used against them to fight their rights.

    January 8, 2014 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  19. Dan

    Who really cares who marries whom? If you really, really care about someone's affairs (who you will never speak to), then the problem is you. Yes, you have your divine morality; however, that is also your burden because not everyone agrees with those beliefs. I do not hol you accountable for my personal beliefs, leave me out of yours.

    January 8, 2014 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  20. RAWoD

    Fascinating that Utah would try to become the poster child of "traditional marriage". Well, there is a reason they call the University "Breed em Young"

    January 8, 2014 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  21. The Truth the Light and the Way

    Utah...the home of traditional marriage. Wait? Utah...Land of Polygamy ...One Man and Many Wives. Patience my friends. Utah will have marriage equality. Then will the whole USA.

    January 8, 2014 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  22. Berzrkr50

    How about they allow gay marriage but not gay divorce? I want to see the fits they throw!

    January 8, 2014 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  23. Nixboox

    No, that's not what the AG of Utah said – the marriages are VALID, they just aren't recognized by the state of Utah which they weren't before the state issued them. What is it with the misleading headlines? Do you think people can't read? Shock value? This isn't journalism, this is an ambush.

    January 8, 2014 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  24. JohnRJohnson

    What a beautiful state. Populated, unfortunately, with some real ugly people.

    January 8, 2014 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  25. Hammerer

    No matter if every judge in the world rules in favor of ss marriages that does not change the TRUTH!

    January 8, 2014 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
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