Gay marriages will neither be recognized nor performed in Utah while a federal case is being litigated, Gov. Gary Richard Herbert’s office said Wednesday in an email to Cabinet officials.
The directive noted that any process of using a state service related to a same-sex marriage — changing one’s name on a driver’s license, for instance — will be paused until further notice. The decision means about 1,000 same-sex marriages contracted in the past two weeks will have no legal standing or effect for now.
“We … recognize that these changes affect real people’s lives,” Mr. Herbert’s chief of staff, Derek Miller, said in an email to Cabinet officials.
So please “carefully and considerately ensure” that state employees “continue to treat all people with respect and understanding” as they are assisted, the email said.
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court agreed with Utah officials to issue a stay on same-sex marriages in Utah, pending the outcome of a federal court case on the state’s constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman.
But gay couples had been marrying since Dec. 20, when District Court Judge Robert J. Shelby overturned the state’s constitutional amendment and ordered that same-sex marriage could begin immediately. Some 1,000 gay couples married, but their status was placed in limbo once the high court issued its order staying the ruling.
“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,” Mr. Miller wrote.
“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,” he said.
But with the stay, Utah’s “original” marriage laws are back in effect, and “those laws include not only a prohibition of performing same-sex marriages, but also recognizing same-sex marriages,” Mr. Miller wrote.
In situations where people are 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,” the notice said.
For example, if same-sex couples seek to change their names on driver’s licenses, those driver’s licenses cannot be issued. For those whose names already have been changed, the notice said, “those licenses should not be revoked.”
The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has said it will expedite the case, Herbert v. Kitchen, and has asked for initial briefing papers by the end of the month.
Gay-rights organizations, including the Human Rights Campaign and the American Foundation for Equal Rights, said it was “harmful” and “demeaning” not to recognize same-sex marriages and that the Supreme Court’s stay was a “bitter reminder” about injustice in America.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints praised the Supreme Court’s order. The decision “now allows for a more reasoned, thoughtful, and mutually respectful discussion to take place,” said church spokesman Cody Craynor.
The Mormon Church, he added, “remains firm in its conviction that marriage between a man and a woman is deserving of protection because of its value to society.”
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