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. Silence DoGood

    How many people in the world 7 billion. How many gays 100 million, 200 million. So the other 6.8 billion are wrong, mis-lead, stupid. I think not End of story.
    Sounds like you are hard wired into who is wrong, but you might consider that all 7 billion should have the freedom to explore what is right or wrong for themselves. There was a country started in 1776 with that in mind. Might want to check it out.

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

    Nice. Miss Utah you have my vote this year no matter how ugly you are.

    January 8, 2014 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  3. Rose Ng

    The Supreme Court is so political. It needs TERM LIMITS.

    These five Republican old white guys get to decide what is law regardless of what is fair and just, much less good for the country.

    Denying gays their civil rights is not a matter for courts to decide, these are GOD GIVEN rights.

    I will never again vote Republican. Ever.

    January 8, 2014 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  4. CB

    Ha Ha

    This is just great news! It's about time the courts recognize the will of the people! Justice is severed, Ha Ha!!!


    Yes, justice has been "severed" for sure

    January 8, 2014 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  5. Biohzrd420


    Checks and balances also applies to the people. I guess those activist judges who reversed "Separate but equal" during Brown vs Board of education should have waited until the people of the South were OK with integration and the governors signed off on it.

    January 8, 2014 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  6. mountainlady

    This is so much BS......jerking these poor people around to satisfy someone else's religious prejudice! When is this going to stop? I think all these couples should sue the State of Utah for fraud.

    January 8, 2014 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  7. PHinMiami

    Oh, for Heaven's sake, STOP those people pretending to do God's work. They are as worrisome as the Taliban.

    January 8, 2014 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  8. AJ

    It is disappointing how people think nowadays. A marriage is union of two people that love each other, that we have to be legally married for governmental purposes is another issue. So, the government chose between a man and a woman. It is out of the world how "Oh this is wrong or OMG what is this". Regular marriages go though disgusting issues, not counting abuse, cheating, lies, fraud. So please let's save the hole "Holly sacred' Crap. It is simple business, where you pay the court, the State, the church. If this was so pure, holy and sacred. It should all be free, shouldn't it??

    January 8, 2014 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  9. 3rd

    Thè validity of a marriage, only the legal status of the contract. Marriage is a relationship between people, not something that is only valid if the sate approves.

    You couldn’t be more wrong. A marriage by definition is a contract between two people issued by the governing body.

    January 8, 2014 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  10. Laurie

    Feeling good about being a Utahn was very short-lived. – back to being ashamed to be considered a Utahn – the land of the magic underwear. It's too bad the LDS church runs this state. Judge Shelby was correct in his ruling and many in Utah will be forced to accept that all people were created equal.

    January 8, 2014 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  11. Sniffit

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

    When Utah issued marriage licenses and the marriages were performed under the then-current state of Utah law as determined by the rulings that have been appealed. The stay pending appeal cannot retroactively invalidate that without providing due process to the folks who were legally married prior to the stay being issued.

    January 8, 2014 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  12. The Dude

    Then Utah should return the money for their marriage licenses, and compensate them for any other financial loss and be done with it.

    January 8, 2014 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  13. Anonymous

    I have always been very liberal with the issue of gay marriage. They are people and people deserve the BASIC BASIC right to marry whom they choose. We are supposed to have in place a separation of church and state. The only reason that gay marriage is rocking back and forth in Utah is because the LDS people are against it, which make up like 90% of the population, and the pressure of neighbouring states support legalizing it. End all of the conflict and let them get married. It doesn't affect you who gets married to who. I have been trying to stay neutral with the temporary legalize situation for the past 2 weeks, and then Monday came, and the judge overruled it, which bugged me, but I got over it. This threw me over the edge. People got married. They were living happily ever after and enjoying life. They are married. Who does that? Take away a marriage certificate AFTER marriage? Evidently the government. This really bugs me that they no longer can be legally happy and get all of the other benefits of marriage like every other LEGAL citizen of the United States. GLTB marriage needs to just be controlled by the federal government. It would end all of this conflict and lift so much conflict. Sure there would be a little initial conflict; but after a few months, the damn Mormons would get over it and move on. We have a separation of church and state which was put in place by the founding fathers. People need to get over it and end the conflict and just legalize it.

    January 8, 2014 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  14. Brad

    Invalid? Please. The correct term is "mobility challenged."

    January 8, 2014 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  15. Richard

    Make it legal every where if for no other reason we do not have to see these yes you can/oh wit no you can't stories. Their in love, me and my wife are in love. Loving people marry. gay or straight, just let them marry already.

    January 8, 2014 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  16. Paul

    Can we choose not to recognize Utah as a state?

    January 8, 2014 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  17. brokenpinata

    Jim – sure, there are 7 billion people in the world. Only 2 billion are Christian, so why do they think the other 5 billion are wrong?

    January 8, 2014 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  18. massman

    1,000 new law suits for discrimintaion. Our legal system feeds itself well.

    January 8, 2014 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  19. Rich

    I can only agree w/the other wise posters here – about time a state got some moral balls and stopped this crap...

    January 8, 2014 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  20. Jeff

    Great job, Utah! We the people are with you....it's time that activist judges stopped overturning the will of the people (voters).

    January 8, 2014 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  21. Dusty2701

    When one federal activist judge overrules the will of the majority of the people, you have tyranny. That's the direction the US is headed. And please, stop showing California as an example of the social values to come for the rest of the country. That state is a cesspool of immoral values lost to the devil years ago.

    January 8, 2014 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  22. Homer

    Why do straight people have special laws making their marriage legal?

    January 8, 2014 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  23. Not surprised

    Glad to see Utah show it's bigoty, ignorance and intolerance as if it's something to be proud of. Looking forward to the day all marriages are legal in all states and we can move on from this pointless fight to deny rights to American citizens.

    January 8, 2014 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  24. Not surprised

    Glad to see Utah show its bigoty, ignorance and intolerance as if it's something to be proud of. Looking forward to the day all marriages are legal in all states and we can move on from this pointless fight to deny rights to American citizens.

    January 8, 2014 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  25. sinsarakris

    I think we should all take a step back and realize how NOT surprised we are at this story....and how much MORE surprised we were to hear that they had allowed gay marriage to begin with. Utah, home of the Mormons, leaders and backers of Prop 8...gay marriage? These people still haven't grasped the concept of evolution, global warming, or interacial marriages, among many other very obvious advances and acceptances in our society....are we really surprised that they're now throwing a fit over gay marriage? Come on now....NEWS PLEASE, next!

    January 8, 2014 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
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