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

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"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. Anonymous

    If we could only go back 400 years.....

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

    It's not going to last. Just like the rest of the country, Utah will be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century.

    January 8, 2014 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  3. Sniffit

    As a matter of due process, those marriages were granted under the current state of the law in Utah, i.e., the court decisions that are being appealed to the SCOTUS, and should/must be recognized. Those decisions invalidate the provisions of the Utah state statutes upon which AG Bigot and Governor Bigot are attempting to rely. The SCOTUS granting a stay does not re-validate those provisions retroactively such that those marriages can be effectively taken away without due process.

    January 8, 2014 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  4. Silence DoGood

    @Sarcastro "When one thinks traditional marriage one naturally thinks Utah."
    It gets better. There was a religious comment the other day about evolution proving gays are wrong. So we have likely a Creationist from a polygamist area schooling the country on traditional marriage according to biology.

    January 8, 2014 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  5. lance corporal

    because the "family values" party only wants family THEIR way

    January 8, 2014 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  6. Timothy M

    Absolutely ridiculous. If the marriages were performed and legal at the time, the state has no right to invalidate them. This is a chilling abuse of basic human rights.

    January 8, 2014 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  7. dl

    whew! close one!
    I almost divorced my wife & gave my children away... thanks for saving my marriage, Chief of Staff Derek Miller!

    January 8, 2014 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  8. Arsh

    I wonder if gay people realize that two gay men could just marry two lesbians, get the same tax benefits, and still be gay.

    January 8, 2014 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  9. Nino

    Religions are the downfall of humanity.......Jesus was a 30 something single man, maybe he was gay? very possible!!

    January 8, 2014 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  10. vikingwoman

    This is so lame!! What I do know is that that there are No humans on this planet who enjoy oppression & subjugation! That's why, in this country, hold up's like this wont work! We have a Const.tution that works for All Americans & guarantees that we wont be discriminated against, for being female, non-white, our religious preferences or se.xual orientation! Soon these arguements will be history, as we make new inclusive history! I have nothing against polygamy either, as long as it's between Consenting Adults! I'd love to have a couple/3-4 husbands bringing home the bacon to me & I'd be Happy to fry it up in a pan, ;)!!

    January 8, 2014 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  11. Sam

    Did someone say Mormons don't control Utah? They just found out they were wrong.

    January 8, 2014 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  12. wzn

    Isnt this just tax revenue anyway...why are they turning down marriage lic application fees. let those people get a refund ...al marriage is to govt is either tax credit or debt to them anyway

    January 8, 2014 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  13. JS

    They need to get into the new Millenium and seperate church and state!! That is the big problem here. They want to use their religious beliefs to block this!! How is me marrying the man I love change their life!!!

    January 8, 2014 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  14. Dustinsc

    It astonishes me how many people commenting on this story do not understand this statement and what it means, what the stay means, and oddly enough, what the recent polygamy ruling means.

    January 8, 2014 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  15. Ricke1949

    The imperial judge was put back in his place. He overlorded the vote of the Utah Voters. Finally a win for the people not the imperial courts allied with the liberal universities. As we said in the 60s. Power to the people.

    January 8, 2014 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  16. t

    ..............Utah..........where JUSTICE .......goes to die................

    January 8, 2014 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  17. Francisco Decastro

    lol. 1,000 gay marriages now invalid. When were they ever valid?

    January 8, 2014 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  18. XYZ

    Congratulations to Utah

    January 8, 2014 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  19. rich

    State employees are following the law. From what I understand, Utah is supportive of equal legal rights for gay/lesbian/etc couples. The issue they object to is redefining marriage (they support legal unions with the same legal rights and benefits as marriage). This is because the term "marriage" has a moral and religious context (to many, it is not just a simple legal or equal-rights issue). I believe they see the desire by progressive groups to redefine the term marriage as primarily seeking moral approval for their feelings and behavior (which is far different than seeking legal status).

    January 8, 2014 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  20. Richard Bratton

    Welcome to Utah. Set your clocks back 50 years...

    January 8, 2014 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  21. dontbow

    All are invalid in the other states as well.

    January 8, 2014 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  22. quent97

    This sounds like the beginning of a bad joke...did you hear the one about what the multi-mama boy said to the gay guy?...

    January 8, 2014 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  23. ghostonefour

    Did we need a Judge to tell us that gay marriages are "invalid"??? Somethings just go without saying don't they? I mean even if it is legal and all the judges say its legal, that still doesn't make it valid in any way does it? If adultery were suddenly legal would that make it okay? Oh wait... adultery IS legal... I rest my case.

    January 8, 2014 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  24. Scottlaw

    "'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."

    Well... if you believe in equality and don't make bigoted rules, your citizens won't be put into legal limbo.

    January 8, 2014 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  25. Silence DoGood

    @JS "They need to get into the new Millennium and separate church and state!! "
    Interesting that this is the Old millennium too, or at least the thinking back in 1776.
    “The civil government functions with complete success by the total separation of the Church from the State.”
    ~James Madison, 1819

    January 8, 2014 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
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