Utah’s Gov Herbert: State Won’t Recognize Your Marriages

First-in-Utah same-sex married couple Michael Adam Ferguson and J. Seth Anderson

First-in-Utah same-sex married couple Michael Adam Ferguson and J. Seth Anderson

Vindictive and rigidly adherent to his Mormon faith’s proscriptions, Utah Governor Gary Herbert today directed all agencies of the state government under his purview to ignore legal marriages performed in the state between same-sex couples between December 20th and January 5. Despite the SCOTUS stay’s silence on the issue of the validity of these marriages, the governor has rashly determined that the state need not acknowledge or recognize these marriages:

Republican Governor Gary Herbert has just announced that the state of Utah will not recognize the legal marriages of 1360 same-sex couples until the courts force him to do so. Gov. Herbert, has been working angrily and tirelessly to convince the courts to stay a federal judge’s ruling last month — which found the state’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. He and his new Attorney general succeeded on Monday, when the Supreme Court placed a hold on the ruling, and denying any future same-sex weddings until the Circuit Court ruled on the actual case.

Governor Herbert just issued a memo directing all state agencies to not recognize these marriages that were performed legally under current existing law, between December 20 and January 5. No same-sex marriages performed in state or out of state will be recognized, Governor Herbert has directed.

Presumably, the legal basis for ignoring the state’s faith-based proscription against same-sex marriages no longer exists in Governor Herbert’s mind, since he clearly sees the SCOTUS stay as somehow invalidating any marriages performed during the time the federal court wouldn’t stay its own ruling:

While it is certainly true that the Constitution of the United States — with its requirement that gay couples be afforded the “equal protection of the laws” — trumps the Utah constitution, Utah has made it perfectly clear that they plan to fight offering equal rights to gay couples until the bitter end.

Buzzfeed provides the memo:

Dear Cabinet,

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

And there is this from plaintiff’s counsel:

Update at 1:30 p.m.: Peggy A. Tomsic, one of the lawyers at Magleby & Greenwood who are representing the plaintiff same-sex couples, said in a statement:
“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. By taking this unwarranted action, the State of Utah has discounted the lives of thousands of Utah citizens who live, work, and raise their families in Utah and pay Utah and federal taxes like all other Utah citizens. Regardless of how the State believes the Tenth Circuit will ultimately rule, these couples are legally married, and the State should treat them accordingly.”

3 thoughts on “Utah’s Gov Herbert: State Won’t Recognize Your Marriages

  1. Teddy Post author

    And, also via Buzzfeed, this from AG Sean Reyes:

    We understand that this is a matter of great public import that impacts lives on a very personal basis. Prior to and since the U.S. Supreme Court stay of the district court’s injunction in Kitchen v. Herbert, our office has been researching the proper legal course to address this uniquely challenging issue without any clear precedent to guide us.

    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.

    The Office of the Attorney General has advised the Governor in this case and will continue to work with the Governor and the individual agencies as they evaluate the application of specific policies and benefits within their agencies. A review team has been established to advise on a case-by-case basis.

    The stay means that Utah’s laws defining marriage, including Amendment 3 are again in effect and the county clerks in all of Utah’s 29 counties, since the entry of the stay on January 6, are unable to issue licenses to marry persons of the same sex.

    The State can neither recognize nor confer new marital benefits. While the ultimate validity of such marriages is subject to the decision of a higher court, it is clear that the State is bound by law to limit any benefits attaching after the stay.

    We acknowledge that this is a very difficult situation for many. It was the reason our office sought the stay of the district court’s decision immediately. We wanted to avoid the untenable situation in which many of our citizens find themselves. We are diligently seeking certainty for all Utah s through proper and orderly legal process.

  2. Teddy Post author



      Utah Gov. Strips Marriage Rights from Lawfully Wed Same-Sex Couples




      WASHINGTON – Today Utah Governor Gary Herbert’s office directed state agencies not to recognize as valid the legal marriages of same-sex couples performed after a federal court ruled in favor of marriage equality in December. Human Rights Campaign (HRC) president Chad Griffin issued the following statement:




      “Today’s decision harms hundreds of Utah families and denies them the respect and basic protections that they deserve as legally married couples,” said HRC president Chad Griffin. “Governor Herbert has once again planted himself firmly on the side of discrimination by preserving the second-class status he believes gay and lesbian Utahans merit. These families deserve better and I have no doubt the courts will soon grant them the justice and equality that our Constitution demands.”



    On Monday

      , the U.S. Supreme Court granted a stay in the marriage challenge while the lower court decision is on appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. Before the stay was issued, more than 1,000 same-sex couples were legally married in Utah.




      The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.
  3. Teddy Post author



      “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 letter said.




      However, if couples had already received, for example, new driver licenses 


      reflecting new names, those licenses will not be revoked, the letter said. 


      But couples may not now seek new licenses.




      “If someone was four steps along in process, they stop at step four and 


      they remain at step four until we get further direction from court,” 


      Miller said.




      Likewise, if someone had completed a process — whether that was filing 


      for health insurance coverage or preparing joint taxes — they are now 


      frozen at that point, he said.




      “Wherever anyone was at, that is now frozen in time until we receive 


      further direction from the courts,” Miller said. “We recognize it is the 


      courts that will decide the validity and legality of those same-sex 


      marriages. But we do need to follow the law, and the law tells us we are 


      prohibited from recognizing those marriages.”