State recognition of same-sex marriage 'on hold,' governor's office says

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 8 2014 4:40 p.m. MST

Rosky said state officials had the discretion to recognize the marriages during the appeals process but instead chose to hurt the families involved.

"It is a blow not only to these married couples, but to all of the children and adults who love them and depend on them," he said.

Salt Lake residents Seth Anderson and Michael Ferguson, the first same-sex couple to marry in Utah, said the state's decision not to recognize their union is frustrating but it could help their cause.

"I think in the long run, it's good for marriage equality nationally because this proves the state has animus towards LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) citizens and the rule of law," Anderson said.

"I was legally married in the state of Utah along with over 1,000 other couples that have now been told, 'We're not going to recognize it. We don't have to,' and they do," he said. "We'll continue to go forward and fight for our rights."

State Democratic Party Chairman Jim Dabakis, who married his longtime partner, Stephen Justesen, the same day as Shelby's ruling, said he was "really, really disappointed" in the governor's action.

"This is our lives. This is a big moment," Dabakis, a state senator, said. "For the governor to arbitrarily decide to issue an order that ends, exterminates the marriages of so many loving people, it seems to me it's not very humane."

Brigham Young University law professor Lynn Wardle called the state's hold a "very reasonable approach. It's not the only approach that could be taken to this very difficult dilemma."

Wardle said it underscores how inappropriate it was for Shelby and the 10th Circuit to refuse to stay the ruling during Utah's appeal.

It’s also a complex issue because same-sex couples took advantage of the window to get married but the decision allowing that could be overturned, he said.

"What is the effect of those marriages? That is a very tough legal question. There are good arguments on both sides," Wardle said. "I would simply say that Gov. Herbert has made a very courageous decision."

University of Utah law professor Paul Cassell, a former federal judge, said that "as a legal matter, the state's position is correct." The stay issued by the Supreme Court, he said, means that the law in Utah reverts back to where it was before Shelby's ruling.

It's easier for the state to not recognize same-sex marriages going forward than going backward and invalidating them, Cassell said.

He also said the state's directive would be the last word on the issue for only the next two or three months when the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals is expected to either reverse or affirm Shelby's ruling.

Utah Eagle Forum leader Gayle Ruzicka said the state did the right thing.

"Until this issue is settled they should all be on hold. They should not be recognizing (same-sex) marriages. It's just going to confuse people and create a situation that will be hard to undo," she said.

Earlier this week, Ruzicka said the marriages should be "summarily invalidated."

"As long as they're on hold, they'll be invalidated when the Supreme Court strikes the judge's decision down," she said Wednesday.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Utah sent a letter to Reyes prior to his opinion being issued describing the same-sex marriages in Utah as valid and enforceable.

In a statement, the ACLU said: "It is clear that the moment these couples were married, they obtained vested rights that cannot be retroactively invalidated by Utah."

John Mejia, ACLU legal director, said it's too soon to talk about suing the state.

"I think it's premature to say we would be threatening anything but it is something we would consider," Mejia said. "I think they have it exactly wrong."

Yet later Wednesday, the ACLU of Utah tweeted that it is seeking plaintiffs in a suit to protect the rights of same-sex couples married in Utah.

Contributing: Richard Piatt, Keith McCord

Email: lisa@deseretnews.com

Twitter: DNewsPolitics

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