The American Civil Liberties Union of Utah announced Thursday that it is planning litigation against the state of Utah for putting recognition of same-sex marriages on hold after the Supreme Court issued a temporary stay.
The ACLU called for plaintiffs on Wednesday, and got “overwhelming interest” from couples who were married before the stay was granted.
“We have a great pool and we are working through that, and plan to bring litigation that will protect all marriages, whether the couples are named plaintiffs or not,” the ACLU said in a statement.
In a letter to Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes on Wednesday, ACLU of Utah legal director John Mejia called on the state to recognize the same-sex marriages performed before the stay.
“In short, these marriages are valid and have vested the married couples with rights that the state and federal governments must recognize. Utah and the federal government should thus accord same-sex couples who married in Utah all of the same protections and obligations that married couples of the opposite sex receive,” he wrote. “When these couples married, they immediately obtained all of the same protections and obligations enjoyed by all of the other married couples in Utah.”
While Utah put recognition of same-sex marriages “on hold,” its decision to do so did not invalidate marriage licenses already issued to gay couples.
Reyes clarified this distinction to Fox 13 News Salt Lake City.
“I want to be clear that we are not saying those marriages are invalid,” he said. “However, as a state we cannot recognize those marriages.”
Because Utah will not recognize same-sex marriages, gay couples will not have access to state services like filing joint tax returns, according to a memo sent to state agencies by the governor’s chief of staff, Derek Miller.
Reyes also told Fox 13 that other states can recognize the licenses issued to same-sex couples in Utah.
The Human Rights Campaign also called on U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to look into Utah’s decision not to recognize same-sex marriages and grant federal recognition to those married in Utah.
“Even though the governor’s office has now made a political decision to cut off this recognition, it continues to insist that it makes no pronouncement about the validity of these unions,” Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, wrote in a letter to Holder. “There is simply no reason for the United States government not to extend federal recognition to these more than 1,300 couples.”
Justice Department spokeswoman Dena Iverson told BuzzFeed on Wednesday that the Justice Department is looking into the matter.