Utah will not recognize same-sex marriages performed before high court stay
January 8th, 2014
01:17 PM ET
3 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. Rich Brown

    I suspect that if the government were completely taken out of marriage and no legal or financial benefits were offered because of legal marriage, very few gays would want to be married.

    January 8, 2014 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  2. giddiupp

    usual american buffoonery..

    January 8, 2014 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  3. BostonBruins02110

    Thank goodness I live in Massachusetts! This issue of equality was settled a decade ago.

    January 8, 2014 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  4. Don

    Hilarious to me all the gnashing of teeth here. For months the supporters of gay marriage have had it all there way, and when they have a couple of setbacks all the vitriol. It bears repeating their are tens of millions of Americans who do NOT support gay marriage. First the Duck Dynasty matter, now Utah. Is it the beginning of a backlash? One can only hope....

    January 8, 2014 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  5. tom l

    I have not read one comment from someone from the hard right that has any bashing of gay people or hate whatsoever. A few comments that said they were against gay marriage but certainly no hate. Then I read the comments from the left which has many more comments. The only comments with venom, vitriol and hate come from the left. It's palpable. Take a look in the mirror, liberals. The hate that is being spewed is only coming from your side of the aisle with regards to this post.

    I only wish Sniffit would take note of that and also notice that there hasn't been any comments that support his prior claims of repubs hating gay people.

    January 8, 2014 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  6. Trent

    Hooray for bigotry.

    January 8, 2014 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  7. sam

    Good call finally. You cant mess with mother nature without consequences.

    January 8, 2014 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  8. bob

    So let me get this straight.

    conservatives are all for the RIGHTS of the individual except for individuals they don't agree with? sounds an awful lot like the liberals.

    you can not be for freedom, and not support Marriage for any two people. Therefore All people who are againist Gay marraige are also againist Freedom.

    January 8, 2014 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  9. Heath

    I wonder if they will be refunding all the marriage license fees they collected?

    January 8, 2014 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  10. SB

    Awesome – Marriage is a states issue, not the federal governments. That's why each state has differences with multiple spouses and different ages. If you don't want gay marriage don't get one – If you want one, don't live in a state where it's not recognized.

    January 8, 2014 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  11. Docktor Noitall

    What's next? Want to marry the Family Pet! Stop the Madness

    January 8, 2014 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  12. Pastor Florea

    I want to Said nino to ask God for forgiveness for his coment about Jesus. Jesus is our savior. He created Men and woman. Why do we have the problem that men are getting married to men and woman to woman cuz of seem. If we seek God he can change and fix the problem and make it right. But we are trying to fix it ourselves and we are wrong. Nino don't said that about Jesus. He loves youand his the only that can change people and do things the right way.Amen

    January 8, 2014 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  13. jpurse

    Good hopefully the Supreme Court can end this mess and let gays and lesbians marry like they please.

    January 8, 2014 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  14. Pastor Flores

    I want to Said nino to ask God for forgiveness for his coment about Jesus. Jesus is our savior. He created Men and woman. Why do we have the problem that men are getting married to men and woman to woman cuz of seem. If we seek God he can change and fix the problem and make it right. But we are trying to fix it ourselves and we are wrong. Nino don't said that about Jesus. He loves youand his the only that can change people and do things the right way.Amen

    January 8, 2014 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  15. Thename

    Compassion and understanding is not an endorsement. After the destruction of marriage and family what’s next? The children?

    January 8, 2014 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  16. tb63

    Sorry to burst your bubble, but civil rights are not up to the will of the people.

    January 8, 2014 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  17. Gaven

    Finally some sanity from the government..They should be illegal in every state, period!

    January 8, 2014 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  18. Biff

    The cat is out of the bag. You can't grant thousands of people a basic right like marriage equality for a month then take it away from them down the road because you disagree.

    January 8, 2014 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  19. t

    Why don't religions stay out of peoples business. They are just the same as big government...noisy old ladies with nothing to do but make others life a mess! It doesn't matter which religion...they are ALL about power and money! Now...what WOULD Jesus do??? He tell them to SHUT UP and MIND THEIR OWN BUSINESS!!! And what about that Golden Rule??? What happened to that. Mormons and all the other sanctimonious religious idiots, MYOB!!!!

    January 8, 2014 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  20. jsember1@verizon.net

    Good.
    For over 2000 years marriage was between one man and one woman. For 1 person to decide that gay marriage is legal is judicial fiat beyond belief. The voters decided against gay marriage by an overwhelming majority. This is America.

    January 8, 2014 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  21. Seyedibar

    Yikes. Bad decision Utah. You just cost yourself a fortune in a myriad of civil and federal lawsuits. That's what religion gets you. A dim wit, narrow mind, and empty pockets.

    January 8, 2014 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  22. Peach

    There ya go Utah-–!

    January 8, 2014 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  23. Pro_bono_publico

    Speaking as an attorney, it was a classic jerk move by the judge not to stay his own decision until it had been reviewed by a federal appellate court. It was a typical move by a liberal activist judge to create a legal fait accompli. The judge is the one who put the gay marriage participants in this position; the state's position was already clear, and historically it was states not the feds who control the legal terms of marriage. There is a better than even chance the U.S. Supreme Court will overturn this decision on appeal.

    January 8, 2014 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  24. Gern

    1000 marriages don't care about a piece of paper. In the eyes of the Lord, true love is a valid marriage.

    January 8, 2014 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  25. yeah right

    John

    @Danny, Gay Marriage is an oxymoron and has NOTHING to do with equal rights. In all cases in the United States when the People of a State have actually VOTED FOR AGAINST this proposition, the People have voted AGAINST.

    ---

    Wrong. Washington state voted on it, and it passed. So did Maryland, Maine and Minnesota defeated a measure to ban gay marriage. What is wrong is that the civil rights of our fellow citizens are being put up for a vote or denied by actions of our legislators.

    January 8, 2014 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
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