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Holdout Utah counties begin issuing marriage licenses to gay couples

Thursday, December 26, 2013
Ravell Call, Deseret News (AP)Jax and Heather Collins hug after getting married at the Salt Lake County clerk's office Monday, Dec 23, 2013.

Ravell Call, Deseret News (AP)
Jax and Heather Collins hug after getting married at the Salt Lake County clerk’s office Monday, Dec 23, 2013.

SALT LAKE CITY — The last of the Utah counties that were holding out on issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples reversed course Thursday and decided to hand out licenses to all eligible applicants.

Officials for the four holdouts – Box Elder, Utah, Piute and San Juan counties – told The Associated Press they made the decision to offer licenses to same-sex couples.

County clerks say they had little choice after an appeals court Tuesday declined to intervene and halt gay marriage. U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby ruled last week that Utah’s ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional, sending gay couples rushing to clerk offices for licenses.

The state plans to take its fight against gay marriage to the U.S. Supreme Court as early as Friday while it prepares an appeal of Shelby’s ruling to the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, said Ryan Bruckman, a spokesman for the Utah attorney general’s office.

Bruckman has said counties could be held in contempt of federal court if they refused to comply.

The holdouts said they decided to obey Shelby’s ruling despite reservations and questions about their legal liability. Utah makes it a misdemeanor for county clerks to sanction a same-sex marriage.

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San Juan County Clerk Norman Johnson said “what finalized it for me” was Gov. Gary Herbert’s order to state agencies to comply with Shelby’s decision and change procedures for the delivery of state services. To that end, the Utah Department of Workforce Services is recognizing gay couples for food stamp and welfare benefits.

For Johnson, Herbert’s directive was the “final straw,” together with a refusal Tuesday by the Denver-based appeals court to stay Shelby’s decision pending an appeal from state lawyers.

Johnson said he felt like he was being dragged into granting marriage licenses against the wishes of voters who have kept him in office for 14 years.

“We have no choice,” Johnson said Thursday. “The scales have tipped. It’s not the way I want to see things go. But the law’s the law, and I accept it. It’s time.”

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Filed under: Utah, [ Editor's Picks ]

50 more reader comments:

  1. “High on a mountain top a banner is unfurled”

    Posted on Thursday, December 26, 2013 at 4:26pm
  2. What a great Holiday present. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all from Omaha Nebraska.

    Replied on Thursday, December 26, 2013 at 9:31pm
  3. Who would have thunk it??? Utah, of all places! Fun to watch the queering of Utah!

    Posted on Thursday, December 26, 2013 at 4:26pm
  4. which state is next??

    Replied on Thursday, December 26, 2013 at 4:56pm
  5. Hopefully Georgia...unless I can find a cute guy to get married to so I can sue the state.

    Replied on Thursday, December 26, 2013 at 5:00pm
  6. I don't know which state is next but I understand that people are in federal court challenging the bans in 19 states. This ruling striking down a state ban might be a watershed ruling that tears down all the remaining state bans in one big hit!

    Replied on Thursday, December 26, 2013 at 5:06pm
  7. However, I am moving back home to San Francisco shortly and so no more worries about being a second-class citizen or being unable to marry if I wish to do so. I can't stand my birth state of Wisconsin...it is so back in the Stone Age! Totally fascist fuckhole it is!

    Replied on Thursday, December 26, 2013 at 5:08pm
  8. wooohoo

    Posted on Thursday, December 26, 2013 at 4:27pm
  9. one more nail in Romneys coffin

    Posted on Thursday, December 26, 2013 at 4:27pm
  10. Bout fukkin time how dare refuse to carry out their duties; breaking the law by not carrying out their legal duties!!!!!!!

    Posted on Thursday, December 26, 2013 at 4:29pm
  11. About damn time

    Posted on Thursday, December 26, 2013 at 4:40pm
  12. Welcoming in the new year!

    Posted on Thursday, December 26, 2013 at 4:42pm
  13. He has the flag upside down.

    Posted on Thursday, December 26, 2013 at 4:50pm
  14. awesome

    Posted on Thursday, December 26, 2013 at 4:51pm
  15. i’m amazed; maybe these really are the last days – you know, with miracles and all that

    Posted on Thursday, December 26, 2013 at 4:54pm
  16. Justice reigns – it is a civil rights violation to discriminate against a segment of the population. Bravo to the judge in Utah.

    Posted on Thursday, December 26, 2013 at 4:58pm
  17. I’m so HAPPY!

    Posted on Thursday, December 26, 2013 at 4:58pm
  18. And by “clarifications” Bryan Thompson meant someone told him his a$$ would be fired if he didn’t comply.

    Posted on Thursday, December 26, 2013 at 5:09pm
  19. “…oh, you mean THAT Federal court ruling. Well, why didn’t you say so…”

    Posted on Thursday, December 26, 2013 at 5:25pm
  20. Happy day, but the flag is upside down….:)

    Posted on Thursday, December 26, 2013 at 5:25pm
  21. Utah county is the least liked county in Utah. Its a big joke to all of us in Utah. It’s a breeding ground for the most hateful people in the state. And they think they are safe in their own little Utah county bubble.

    Posted on Thursday, December 26, 2013 at 5:36pm
  22. Great!

    Posted on Thursday, December 26, 2013 at 5:36pm
  23. :) good job

    Posted on Thursday, December 26, 2013 at 5:43pm
  24. they just didnt want to marry us on cmas eve.. no choice now

    Posted on Thursday, December 26, 2013 at 5:56pm
  25. Ya Utah County…that contempt of court message got your attention now didn’t it?

    Posted on Thursday, December 26, 2013 at 6:27pm
  26. Equality :D

    Posted on Thursday, December 26, 2013 at 7:10pm
  27. Then they (the county officials), should be penalized as any others would be), for slow or non-compliance immediately!!! LIVE BY THE LAW OR DO NOT EXPECT OTHERS TO DO SO!!! :/

    Posted on Thursday, December 26, 2013 at 7:14pm
  28. i agree with michael seward

    Posted on Thursday, December 26, 2013 at 7:26pm
  29. Those County officials who refused a court ruling im sure will be facing some federal crimes…not looking good for them..and GOOD!!! Where do they get off refusing a court order? Geez

    Posted on Thursday, December 26, 2013 at 7:28pm
  30. Lucky Utah. The teabagger southern baptists will fight it to the death!!!!

    Posted on Thursday, December 26, 2013 at 7:31pm
  31. Never thought that I’d live to see this day! Roll over Brigham Young, LOL!

    Posted on Thursday, December 26, 2013 at 7:37pm
  32. Amaz’n

    Posted on Thursday, December 26, 2013 at 7:58pm
  33. Jail wasn’t looking too good eh?

    Posted on Thursday, December 26, 2013 at 9:25pm
  34. Gay marriage at BYU! Who would have “thunk?”

    Posted on Thursday, December 26, 2013 at 9:39pm
  35. Wonder how many mormon closets get emptied?

    Posted on Thursday, December 26, 2013 at 10:08pm
  36. Way to go!!!!

    Posted on Friday, December 27, 2013 at 1:03am
  37. I am sure The Mormon politicians are in an uproar over this! That doesnt change the fact that The GLBTQ Community are sacred beings too and deserve respect and equal rights.

    Posted on Friday, December 27, 2013 at 1:04am
  38. Yes!

    Replied on Saturday, December 28, 2013 at 12:17am
  39. I hope to God you guys don’t get the idea of having more than one other mate like the str8 do!!!! lol good for all of us gays !!!

    Posted on Friday, December 27, 2013 at 1:06am
  40. How dare anyone judge & why would a person even consider interfering with another persons happiness.

    Posted on Friday, December 27, 2013 at 1:08am
  41. It’s nice to see conservatives bowing to pressure to obey the law.

    Posted on Friday, December 27, 2013 at 3:26am
  42. I say let the gays marry each other.

    Posted on Friday, December 27, 2013 at 3:08pm
  43. Awesome!!

    Posted on Friday, December 27, 2013 at 5:33pm
  44. Congratulations everyone! :)

    Posted on Friday, December 27, 2013 at 7:41pm
  45. Utah likely to appeal “all the way to the Supreme Court.” SCOTUS likely to use Utah as state/case to overturn all marriage bans as unconstitutional. Oh, the irony. Utah!

    Posted on Saturday, December 28, 2013 at 12:19am
  46. THIS MAKES ME SO HAPPY. LOOK HOW HAPPY EVERYONE IN THAT PICTURE IS

    Posted on Saturday, December 28, 2013 at 12:27am
  47. Congrats and Mazel Tov!

    Posted on Saturday, December 28, 2013 at 2:34am
  48. Posted on Saturday, December 28, 2013 at 2:38am