Gay marriages in Utah will not be recognized while state pursues appeals, Supreme Court rules
The Supreme Court issued a decision Friday that stops Utah from having to recognize more than 1,300 same-sex marriages.
Utah filed an appeal last month challenging the legality of the same-sex marriages, which were granted between December 20 and January 6. The Justices ruled that the state will not recognize the unions until the appeal process is exhausted.
Utah's 2004 gay marriage ban was ruled unconstitutional in a December 20, 2013 federal ruling. Following that decision, more than 1,300 same-sex marriages were performed before a stay on the decision was issued on January 6, 2014. The fiasco has been cited by other states that have requested stays in similar cases.
An appeal on the December decision was denied in the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on June 25, 2014. However, the state plans to appeal that decision in the Supreme Court.
On May 19, U.S. District Judge Dale A. Kimball ruled that the same-sex marriages that were granted during the 17-day window are legal and will remain so, even if the state's gay marriage ban is later reinstated.
If upheld, Utah would have to recognize the same-sex couples in tax filings, employment benefit dissemination, estates and trusts, child custody disputes, and many other arenas.
Gov. Gary Herbert and State Attorney General Sean Reyes filed an appeal on Judge Kimball's decision on June 4, four days before the deadline. The appeal is pending in the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The American Civil Liberties Union, representing the plaintiffs, said that the marriages are legal, and should be recognized as such.
"There is no such thing as an 'interim marriage', " they told the Court. "In seeking to nullify marriages that were legal at the time they were solemnized, defendants seek to do something unprecedented in our nation's history."
Gov. Herbert, however, has vowed to defend the state's voter-approved gay marriage ban until all options are exhausted.
"For elected officials, governors or attorney generals, to pick and choose what laws [they] will enforce I think is a tragedy, and is the next step to anarchy," he said in a May news conference.
"We have an obligation as a state to defend those laws."