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. Richard MIller

    The cult has spoken. The missionary position is all that is valid in Utah. Funny tho, when their missionaries go about the world. they often times find themselves in bed with each other and continue the relationship after their time is up doing the church's business. But that is okay because they are on a mission for the church.

    January 8, 2014 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  2. Tim W.

    Make me a Supreme Court Judge for a day, I'll void all marriages performed by religious leaders, A minister, rabbi, priest or, Native American spiritual adviser ! Only the Governor, mayors, court commissioners, judges, and JP's marriages will be recognized ! Marriage is a legal matter NOT a religious matter.....you need a license issued by the state and the forms must be filed by the county to be valid ............ that makes it a legal matter ! If you want to celebrate with your religion that's ok but it has no legal meaning !

    January 8, 2014 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  3. JQP1122

    Funny I've been debating people on the "War Against Poverty" issue and most of the conservatives sing the same tune... smaller, less intrusive government, less regulation, less the government telling me what to do, get government out of the way, etc. etc. etc. BUT these same conservatives are more than happy to USE the government to impose restrictions on marriage equality. Hypocritical.

    January 8, 2014 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  4. ctx25

    The 14th Amendment includes the following: No state shall deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

    This includes marriage.

    January 8, 2014 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  5. Steve

    I don't understand why people are so bent on preventing gay marriage. To the people who claim it's sinful: even if this country were supposed to be a theocracy (which it isn't), so are gambling and lying, but we still have the lottery and the Tea Party, respectively. Nobody is going to force you to marry someone of your own gender or force your church to hold gay weddings just because we stop denying people their human rights.

    January 8, 2014 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  6. Charles

    'We hold these truths to be self-evident–that all men are created equal." Thomas Jefferson

    January 8, 2014 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  7. sly

    The Utah folks are just angry that Salt Lake City was named the #1 Gay City in America this week.

    Ho ho ho .. how ironic. Utah – just let your sweet boys get married – it's invevitable, and you have so many they deserve the right.

    January 8, 2014 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  8. sinsarakris

    Let's all take a step back and remember that we were much more surprised by the fact that Utah had allowed gay marriage at all...this story isn't shocking, or even news worthy to me. You're talking about a group of people that can't even grasp the concept of global warming or evolution...much less interacial marriages MUCH LESS gay marriage. Prop 8 backers and leaders here people...not shocking. Mormons believe in the most insane conceptual ideas of God...you honestly think any of them are able to think for themselves? LOL Let's stop pretending like we're shocked when the redneck from the south yells he hates gays....and let's stop pretending we're shocked with the Mormons agree!

    January 8, 2014 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  9. ctx25

    Actually, Utah's mormon population is about 62%.

    January 8, 2014 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  10. Dan

    Of course they are invalid. Men can't marry men

    January 8, 2014 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  11. rodboy

    Geeeeee, that is to bad.

    January 8, 2014 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  12. Rudy NYC

    Anyone who argues "the traditional defintion of marriage is blah, blah, blah" needs to bag it, and read the 1st Amendment.

    January 8, 2014 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  13. Bob

    The Mormon Taliban has spoken! They decree that Utah will remain a backward state where the government dictates severe, heartless limits on love, family, and human rights and, in the name of small-government conservativsim, inserts itself into the most personal aspects of human life.

    Happily, the tide of history has already turned, and Utah will be caught up in it sooner or later.

    January 8, 2014 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  14. Gless

    When are you gays going to stop the madness of jamming this down the public's throat?. can't get married in Utah?.. move to another state that allows it. Believe it or not, you (and the rest of us) have far, far more to worry about with the nefarious aspirations of this gov't than getting married.....

    January 8, 2014 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  15. Lisa P.


    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
    Power to which people? Some already have too much power, and get too much pleasure out of lording (or should that be "Lording") it over others. Of course they don't much care to have what they do to others done unto them, for some strange reason. To my mind a little bit of live and let live goes a very long way.

    January 8, 2014 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  16. bob baden

    This truly saddens me that in this day and age ignorance wins out. I can go on a TV show, compete for the attention of a stranger, get married and there's no problem. I live in Massachusetts, where we have more than 6 brain cells collectively and thankfully my relationship is viewed just like that of every other adult. My husband and I have been married 10 years this coming July and we praise our state for being forward thinking. I guess the Mormon's and their fancy underwear win this round. (By the by, I think special underwear is pretty gay).

    January 8, 2014 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  17. Coley

    The American Taliban have spoken. Welcome to Utah, please set clocks back 200 years....

    January 8, 2014 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  18. Seperation Please

    Separation of church and state would mean the church of the holy handout aka federal welfare nanny state would be abolished.

    January 8, 2014 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  19. greg

    Thank God for Utah.....

    January 8, 2014 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  20. fortybox

    For one thing, voters as a majority are AGAINST gay marriage. What ever happened to the will of the people? Obama is president because the voters allowed it to happen. Second, it does affect others when people marry each other. The next challenges that will come will be gay marriages arguing for legal rights to enter the LDS temples.

    January 8, 2014 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  21. smith

    I have a solution for all. Let`s just abolish marriage. No more weddings, civil unions, or anything. You can have a mate and that`s it. Everybody`s happy.

    January 8, 2014 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  22. air

    Gosh, I just love all the polygamy jokes! Considering polygamy in Utah was outlawed in 1890. I also understand that 2/3 of the state voted to uphold traditional (man and woman) marriage. We need to stop giving gay people so much power.

    January 8, 2014 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  23. Ralph

    What a damn shame this is.

    I KNOW for a fact that Gay marriage will be allowed in all states sooner or later as it is just the way things are headed, but this is a joke to have a green light, red light game with peoples personal lives like this.

    January 8, 2014 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  24. VJ

    Sad day for Utah's LGBT community... I hope soon another Judge will approve it... Don't worry.. Ask representatives to put this in 2014 ballot...

    January 8, 2014 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  25. hubert39

    Watched the movie, Gandhi last night. The British rule that a marriage not performed in a Christian church was not legal. This meant all married Hindis and Muslims in India were "not married." They were living in sin. Is Utah going to be this way?

    January 8, 2014 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
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