More than 1,300 same-sex couples got married in Utah in the two weeks between December 20, when a district judge ruled the state’s ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional, and Monday, when the Supreme Court stayed the decision pending the state’s appeal. But Gary Herbert, Utah’s Republican governor, just decided the state won’t recognize those marriages as valid.
Derek Miller, Herbert’s chief of staff, sent state agencies the following email Tuesday night:
I’m sure you are all aware of the issuance of the stay regarding same-sex marriage in Utah from the United States Supreme Court yesterday. This stay effectively puts a hold on the decision of the district court, which found state laws prohibiting same-sex marriage in Utah to be unconstitutional.
After the district court decision was issued on Friday, December 20th, some same-sex couples availed themselves of the opportunity to marry and to the status granted by the state to married persons. This office sent an email to each of you soon after the district court decision, directing compliance.
With the district court injunction now stayed, the original laws governing marriage in Utah return to effect pending final resolution by the courts. It is important to understand that those laws include not only a prohibition of performing same-sex marriages but also recognizing same-sex marriages.
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 intent of this communication is to direct state agency compliance with current laws that prohibit the state from recognizing same-sex marriages.
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. For example, if a same-sex married couple previously changed their names on new drivers licenses, those licenses should not be revoked. If a same-sex couple seeks to change their names on drivers licenses now, the law does not allow the state agency to recognize the marriage therefore the new drivers licenses cannot be issued.
We appreciate your patience and diligence in this matter. We recognize that different state agencies have specific questions and circumstances that will need to be worked through. Please do so with the Assistant Attorney General assigned to your respective agency in coordination with the Governor’s General Counsel. We also recognize that these changes affect real people’s lives. Let us carefully and considerately ensure that we, and our employees throughout the state, continue to treat all people with respect and understanding as we assist them.
Derek B. Miller
Chief of Staff
Governor’s Office State of Utah
So, that’s awful. Happy Wednesday.
UPDATE, January 10, 2014: In better news, the federal government will recognize the marriages of same-sex couples that got married in Utah while it was legal. Happy Friday!
UPDATE 2, January 21, 2014: On Tuesday, the ACLU filed a lawsuit seeking to force the state of Utah to recognize the marriages of the same-sex couples that were wed there while it was legal.