Utah places hold on recognition of same-sex couples’ legal marriages

State officials in Utah announced today that state agencies will not respect the marriages of the more than 1,000 same-sex couples who have been granted marriage licenses in the state. A federal judge's ruling from December 20, which was stayed yesterday by the United States Supreme Court, will be considered later this year by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. Until the appeals court hears the case, the married couples in Utah will not be viewed as married in the state. 

A letter from the governor's office reads, "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. 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 lawsuit in question is Kitchen v. Herbert, filed by private lawyers in March 2013 (this week, officials from the National Center for Lesbian Rights came aboard the suit). In December, U.S. District Court Judge Robert J. Shelby found that laws prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying in Utah are unconstitutional, conflicting with the U.S. Constitution's guarantees of equal protection and due process under the law. The ruling took effect immediately, and same-sex couples began marrying that afternoon.

Freedom to Marry founder and president Evan Wolfson commented on yesterday's decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to grant a stay in the marriage ruling. He said:

While every day’s denial of the freedom to marry hurts, this is just a temporary pause in the work to win marriage for all loving and committed same-sex couples in the state. As the case makes its way up the ladder, we must continue to do the work of having conversations about why marriage matters, engaging both gay and non-gay people, and preparing for when the Supreme Court does take up the next case that will bring national resolution.

About 1,000 same-sex couples have legally married in Utah in the past few weeks; and their friends, neighbors, and elected officials will now see that marriage betters their lives and hurts no one. Being married allows a committed couple to protect each other and their family, and gives respect to their commitment under law.

It’s crucial to use the momentum we gained in 2013 for the freedom to marry in the new year to show that allowing same-sex couples to share in the joy of marriage in Utah – and everywhere – is the right thing to do.

As we have in other states, Freedom to Marry will continue to work with local and state partner organizations to educate the public and amplify support for the freedom to marry across the state of Utah. The work to win in Utah is one element of the Roadmap to Victory, Freedom to Marry's three-prong strategy for winning marriage for same-sex couples across the country. Our goal is to tee up victory in the Supreme Court and win the freedom to marry nationwide by creating the necessary climate to empower the U.S. Supreme Court to stand on the right side of history. Read more about the Roadmap to Victory HERE.

Learn more about Kitchen v. Herbert HERE.

Photo by The New York Times