Supreme Court halts same-sex marriages in Utah pending ruling by appeals court
by Rudy Herndon
Staff Writer
Jan 09, 2014 | 2239 views | 0 0 comments | 61 61 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Same-sex marriages in Utah are now on hold – at least until a federal appeals court rules on the state’s legal challenge of a lower court decision that sanctioned those unions.

On Jan. 6, the U.S. Supreme Court granted Utah’s request for a stay of U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby’s Dec. 20 ruling that struck down Amendment 3, the state’s 2004 voter-approved ban on gay marriages.

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes said in a statement Jan. 8 that the decision restores the state’s laws defining marriage. As a result, county clerks in all of Utah’s 29 counties can no longer issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, Reyes said. Couples who received a license but had not yet married before the Supreme Court issued the stay will not be allowed to marry at this time, state officials said.

More than 900 gay couples received marriage licenses before the Jan. 6 stay was granted. In Grand County, 12 couples were issued marriage licenses, according to Grand County Clerk Diana Carroll.

Reyes said his office is unable to determine the ultimate validity of the same-sex marriages that were performed in Utah between Dec. 20 and Jan. 6.

“That question remains unanswered and the answer will depend on the result of the appeal process,” he said.

In the meantime, the state can neither recognize nor confer new marital benefits to same-sex couples, Reyes said.

Gov. Gary Herbert’s chief of staff said in a separate statement that state recognition of a same-sex couple’s marital status will remain on hold until further notice, based on advice from the attorney general’s office.

“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,” Derek Miller said in the Jan. 7 letter to state agencies.

Newly married same-sex couples who had already begun the process of applying for services such as driver licenses or health insurance.

“Wherever individuals are in the process of availing themselves of state services related to same-sex marital status, that process is on hold and will stay exactly in that position until a final court decision is issued,” Miller said in the memo.

If couples had, for example, already received new driver licenses under their married names, those licenses “should not be revoked,” Miller’s letter said. However, newly married same-sex couples may not now receive new licenses, he said.

“[T]he law does not allow the state agency to recognize the marriage therefore the new drivers licenses cannot be issued,” the letter stated.

The U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has agreed to expedite its review of the state’s appeal. The appeals court has ordered briefing to begin on Jan.27 and to be completed by Feb. 25 and has indicated it is not likely to grant any extensions of time to file those documents, according to SCOTUSblog, a legal news blog. A hearing date for the appeal has not yet been scheduled.

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