Court ruling has created 'chaotic situation,' Utah Gov. Gary Herbert says
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
OGDEN — As Utah Gov. Gary Herbert called for "an expedited judicial resolution" Saturday, same-sex couples who thought they could marry in Weber County were left disappointed.
Herbert said Friday's federal court ruling overturning Utah's voter-approved prohibition on same-sex marriage "has created a chaotic situation in our state that requires an expedited judicial resolution."
"Utahns deserve a fair and complete judicial process, and I strongly encourage Judge Shelby to grant the motion for stay until the appeal can be heard and Utah's constitutional defense of traditional marriage restored," Herbert said.
On Friday, U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby struck down Utah's constitutional amendment — which defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman — finding that it violates rights to due process and equal protection as set forth in the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Acting Attorney General Brian Tarbet said his office is "vigorously pursuing" an appeal. By 9 a.m. Monday, he intends to bring a motion to stay the order before Shelby.
"If he declines to rule at that time, we have already petitioned the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit for a temporary stay pending Judge Shelby's decision," Tarbet said in a statement Saturday.
Jessica Chavez and Alecia Conder, who said they have been in a relationship for nine years, were disappointed when they couldn't wed Saturday in Ogden.
"Today was going to be our day," said Chavez, 30.
The same-sex couple lined up outside the Weber Center with about 350 other Utahns in hopes of marrying with an official marriage license.
Weber County Clerk Ricky Hatch had planned to open his office for a couple of hours Saturday to alleviate the rush on marriage licenses he is expecting during regular business hours Monday. He did not, however, anticipate the security requirements of opening the building, and therefore had to turn away the hundreds who had gathered.
"I feel bad," Hatch said, adding a personal apology to anyone who waited for hours in the cold weather. "The decision was completely due to logistics."
The "chaotic situation" reference by Herbert seems to have spawned more questions than answers.
Bill Duncan, director of the Utah-based nonprofit Marriage Law Foundation, said he expects things to be "unsettled for a little while," even possibly until the U.S. Supreme Court weighs in down the road.
The validity of marriages performed in Salt Lake County on Friday will also lie with the high court.
"If the judge is wrong, then his ruling that the law can't be enforced is kicked out," Duncan said. "And so those licenses wouldn't have anything other than a symbolic effect."
He said a number of similar ongoing court cases will help to resolve the issue at hand, but he expects "whatever happens, one side will be unhappy."
Cliff Rosky, chairman of Equality Utah, an advocacy group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Utahns, said other states and countries have to be "watching Utah right now."
"This case has the ability to settle the legality of same-sex marriage in all 50 states," he said, adding that he doesn't believe any legal marriages will be invalidated.
"That would be particularly cruel to the couples involved for fairly obvious reasons," Rosky said. "When the papers are signed, you are married."
Though the crowds that gathered at Weber County dispersed peaceably Saturday, many plan to return as early as possible Monday. Hatch said his office will be open at its regularly scheduled time, 8 a.m. He said additional personnel will be available "to help process as many applications as we can."
The office, which also processes passport applications and is responsible for other business, Hatch said, has never been pushed to its limit.
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