U.S.

Utah Same-Sex Marriages Not Recognized: Governor's Office

The governor's chief of staff says until the courts rule on same-sex marriage in Utah, those couples who got married are in "legal limbo."

Utah Same-Sex Marriages Not Recognized: Governor's Office
YouTube / GovernorHerbert

Same-sex marriage was legal for 17 days in Utah — a federal judge ruled the state's ban unconstitutional on Dec. 20, but the Supreme Court put a stay on that ruling Monday. No new same-sex marriages can be performed, but what about the ones that happened during that 17-day gap?

Wednesday the office of Utah Gov. Gary Herbert sought to clear up the confusion, saying those marriages won't be recognized until the courts decide the matter: "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." (Via YouTube / GovernorHerbertOffice of Gov. Gary Herbert)

According to Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, after the Supreme Court stay, Utah's existing laws went back into effect — including Amendment 3, part of the state constitution that prohibits even the recognition of same-sex marriages. (Via Utah State Legislature)

An estimated 1,300 same-sex couples took advantage of the opportunity to marry before the Supreme Court's stay. (Via MSNBC)

The governor's order doesn't declare those marriages void, exactly, just that applications for benefits can't move forward — which is bound to cause plenty of confusion for those couples.

The state's attorney general seems to blame the whole mess on the district court judge who legalized gay marriage. Reyes says: "This is the uncertainty that we were trying to avoid by asking the District Court for a stay immediately after its decision. It is very unfortunate that so many Utah citizens have been put into this legal limbo." (Via KUTV, Utah Office of Attorney General)

But in a statement obtained by BuzzFeed, a legal counsel for one of the couples involved in the court case said the governor's office didn't have to take this step, calling the order unwarranted: "Regardless of how the State believes the Tenth Circuit will ultimately rule, these couples are legally married, and the State should treat them accordingly." (Via Magleby & Greenwood, P.C.)

Marriage licenses are only valid for 30 days, leading at least one county clerk to say she's exploring whether same-sex couples who got a license but hadn't yet gotten married will be able to have their fees refunded.