Utah Same-Sex Marriages ‘On Hold’ Until Final SCOTUS Ruling

Same-sex couples Natalie Dicou, left, and Nichole Christensen, middle left, and James Goodman, middle right, and Jeffrey Gomez, right, wait in line to get a marriage license at the Salt Lake County Clerk's Office in ... Same-sex couples Natalie Dicou, left, and Nichole Christensen, middle left, and James Goodman, middle right, and Jeffrey Gomez, right, wait in line to get a marriage license at the Salt Lake County Clerk's Office in Salt Lake City on Friday, Dec. 20, 2013. A federal judge ruled on Friday that Utah's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. (AP Photo/Kim Raff) MORE LESS
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Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) on Tuesday told state agencies that the state recognition of same-sex marriage is “on hold” until a final Supreme Court ruling is issued.

“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,” Herbert’s Chief of Staff Derek Miller wrote in a memo sent to reporters. “It is important to understand that those laws include not only a prohibition of performing same-sex marriages but also recognizing same-sex marriages.”

In the memo Miller states that that the state’s decision is not a stance against same-sex marriage, but guidance on how to follow state law.

“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 wrote. “The intent of this communication is to direct state agency compliance with current laws that prohibit the state from recognizing same-sex marriages.”

The marriage process for same-sex couples will freeze until a final court decision.

“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,” the memo reads. “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.”

More than 1,300 gay couples were married in Utah before the Supreme Court issued the stay.

Fox 13 Now Salt Lake City reporter Ben Winslow interviewed Miller, who clarified that the state will not recognize marriages already performed in terms of state benefits and services, such as joint tax returns and driver’s licenses.

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes on Wednesday clarified how the state is handling same-sex marriage now that the stay has been issued. He said in a statement that the validity of marriage licenses already issued will be determined in the courts, and that in the meantime the state cannot recognize marital benefits for those already issued licenses.

“We are unable to reach a legal conclusion as to the ultimate validity of marriage between persons of the same sex who completed their marriage ceremony in Utah between Dec 20, 2013 and Jan. 6, 2014. That question remains unanswered and the answer will depend on the result of the appeal process,” Reyes said. “The State can neither recognize nor confer new marital benefits.”

The attorney general has established a review team and said that he will work with agencies as they determine specific policies.

On Wednesday, Peggy Tomsic, one of the attorneys representing the same-sex couples in the Utah gay marriage case, criticized the state’s decision to put recognition of same-sex marriage on hold.

“This unprecedented and disappointing action harms not only my clients, but hundreds of other same-sex couples who also were legally married, and whose families have been needlessly destabilized and stripped of basic legal protection,” she said in a statement obtained by Buzzfeed. “Regardless of how the State believes the Tenth Circuit will ultimately rule, these couples are legally married, and the State should treat them accordingly.”

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