Utah Gov. Gary Herbertannounced Wednesday that the state will not recognize the 1,000-plus same-sex marriages performed in the state since Dec. 20, when a U.S. district judge ruled that the state’s ban on gay marriage violated gay and lesbian couples’ constitutional rights.
“The original laws governing marriage in Utah return to effect pending final resolution by the courts,” the governor’s office said in a memo issued to his Cabinet.
“We’re not going to do anything to undo marriages,” said Missy Larsen, spokeswoman for Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes. “If they have a driver’s license with their marital name on it, it stands. But wherever they were in the process, it’s frozen.”
That means that same-sex couples who have gotten married since the Dec. 20 ruling and who are in the process of applying for benefits for spouses or adopting children will have those actions put on hold.
Same-sex couples who have gotten marriage licenses but have not yet had weddings are not legally married, Larsen said. “The ceremony had to have taken place. It had to have been solemnized.”
Gov. Herbert’s chief of staff, Derek Miller, sent a memo saying state law not only prohibits same-sex marriages but also prohibits the state recognizing them.
Utah is not commenting on the legal status of the same-sex marriages already performed, the memo said.
They will at least allow county clerks to continue processing paperwork from couples that did get married before SCOTUS stepped in, for which I don’t feel like scrounging up a snarky comment. Just because Utah doesn’t want to recognize these marriages doesn’t mean anyone else has to follow their lead, and indeed on Friday the Obama administration announced that they would recognize all of Utah’s marriages.
“I am confirming today that, for purposes of federal law, these marriages will be recognized as lawful and considered eligible for all relevant federal benefits on the same terms as other same-sex marriages,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a video message which was shared with TPM. “These families should not be asked to endure uncertainty regarding their status as the litigation unfolds.”
Good for them. The Human Rights Commission had asked for this a day earlier, and I’m glad to see it happen without any dithering. In the meantime, while we wait for the Tenth Circuit to hear the appeal, the ACLU is planning to file a lawsuit against Utah to force it to uncover its eyes and recognize these marriages as legal pending the outcome of the original litigation. We’ll see what gets an enforceable ruling first.