Utah Refuses to Recognize Same-Sex Marriage Licenses Issued…by Utah

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Jan. 8 2014 9:52 PM

Utah Refuses to Recognize Same-Sex Marriage Licenses Issued…by Utah

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Married gay couples in Utah left in legal limbo.

Photo by Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images

The legal status of more than a thousand recently married same-sex couples in Utah is in limbo after the Governor, of Utah, announced that the state will not recognize the gay marriages performed—in Utah. Some 1,300 same-sex marriages have been performed in the state since Dec. 20 after a district court ruled that the state’s ban on gay marriage violated the constitutional rights of gay couples. The Supreme Court, however, weighed in on Monday blocking same-sex couples from getting married until an appeals court could rule on the issue. So where exactly does that leave gay couples who got married in the state? Kind of hard to tell actually.

"The original laws governing marriage in Utah return to effect pending final resolution by the courts," the governor's office said in a memo. While that seems like a clear reversal, since previously gay marriage was banned in the state, there is a pretty significant gray area. Here’s how gray we’re talking, via USA Today:

"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 were married since the Dec. 20 ruling who might be 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."
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So, it sounds like what they’re trying to say is: if you’re a gay couple that has a marriage license and got married then you’re not not-married, you’re just not, you know, married. Or as Derek Miller, the chief of staff to Utah’s governor, puts it, according to the Wall Street Journal, “the state's move ‘is not intended to comment on the legal status of those same-sex marriages—that is for the courts to decide.’ But he said the state's laws prohibiting recognition of gay marriage were again in effect until courts resolve the issue.”

Elliot Hannon is a writer in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter.

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