Follow breaking news @lgbtqnation

ACLU sues Utah for not recognizing same-sex couples’ marriages

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Updated: 3:15 p.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY –The American Civil Liberties Union has sued the state of Utah over the issue of gay marriage, saying the official decision to stop granting benefits for newly married same-sex couples has created wrenching uncertainty.

Matthew Barraza and Tony Milner, with their 4-year-old son, Jesse, are plaintiffs in the ACLU suit against Utah.

ACLU
Matthew Barraza and Tony Milner, with their 4-year-old son, Jesse, are among the four couples who are plaintiffs in the ACLU lawsuit against Utah.

The lawsuit (pdf) filed Tuesday says the state has put hundreds of gay and lesbian couples in legal limbo and prevented them from getting key protections for themselves and their children.

“They’ve put a giant question mark over the lives of all these people that have married,” said John Mejia, legal director for the ACLU in Utah.

Utah governor’s spokesman Marty Carpenter responded by saying that Gov. Gary Herbert “has said throughout this process that his responsibility is to follow the law. That is exactly what the administration is doing, and we respect the rights of those who disagree to take their grievances before a judge.”

The four married gay and lesbian couples in the lawsuit spoke Tuesday during a news conference about how the state’s action is harming them. They cited a range of concerns that include emergency medical decision-making and child-raising.

Matthew Barraza and Tony Milner have a 4-year-old son, Jesse, but only Barraza is legally recognized as a parent. “Heaven forbid if something should happen to one us, Jesse would have the security of having the other parent take care of him,” said Milner, 34. “Now, because of the state’s refusal to recognize our marriage, this peace of mind is once again out of reach.”

The four couples are among more than 1,000 gay and lesbian couples rushed to marry after a federal judge in Utah overturned the state’s same-sex marriage ban on Dec. 20. U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby ruled that the same-sex marriage ban violates gay and lesbian couples’ constitutional rights.

Those weddings came to a halt on Jan. 6 when the U.S. Supreme Court granted Utah an emergency stay – something two lower courts denied them.

After the Supreme Court issued the stay, Herbert told state agencies to hold off on moving forward with any new benefits for the couples until the courts resolve the issue. Agencies were told not to revoke anything already issued, such as a driver’s license with a new name, but they are prohibited from approving any new marriages or benefits. More recently, the state tax commission announced that newly married gay and lesbian couples can jointly file their taxes for 2013.

The state made clear it was not ordering agencies to void the marriages, saying instead that validity of the marriages will ultimately be decided by the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which is weighing an appeal from the state.

Mejia of the ACLU disagrees with that assessment, saying the marriages performed during the 17-day window when gay marriage was legal are valid no matter what the court rules. He said the couples have vested rights in their new unions and should be abl e to move forward with efforts to make partners legal guardians of children, or add their spouses to their health insurance or pension plans.

It could take more than a year for the courts to rule on Utah’s same-sex marriage ban, especially if it moves to the U.S. Supreme Court, Mejia said.

“These families need to plan their lives going forward,” Mejia said. “We’re seeking a declaration that these valid marriages must be recognized.”

The state of Utah has 20 days to file a court response to the suit, said Salt Lake City attorney Erik Strindberg, who is working with the ACLU on the lawsuit. The state could ask a state judge to put the case on hold until the federal appeals court rules, Strindberg said. But the ACLU would fight such a request, he said.

The ACLU believes the federal government has taken the correct stance on the new marriages. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder came out days after Herbert’s decree and said the federal government will honor the gay marriages and grant benefits. That means that same-sex couples who were married in Utah can file federal taxes jointly, get Social Security benefits for spouses and request legal immigration status for partners, among other benefits.

There are currently 17 states that allow gay marriage with Utah and Oklahoma in limbo pending decisions by appeals courts.

© 2014, Associated Press, All Rights Reserved.
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Share this article with your friends and followers:

Archives: , , , , ,

Filed under: Utah

68 more reader comments:

  1. Good!

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 6:09pm
  2. LOVE THIS SOOOOOO MUCH!!!

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 6:12pm
  3. thanks ACLU

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 6:16pm
  4. Good Thanks ACLU

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 6:17pm
  5. Go get ‘em

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 6:17pm
  6. Only in Utah, you can have a Zillion wife’s & kids, but know same sex marriage figures!

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 6:17pm
  7. Thank you for standing up for the rights that we deserve.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 6:19pm
  8. Same goes with: Male, Female, Hermaphrodite, Human xP

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 6:20pm
  9. When is the ACLU going to sue states that refuse to recognize my concealed carry license?

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 6:36pm
  10. Sue the absolute living shit out of them.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 6:41pm
  11. Good legal is the way to go !

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 6:43pm
  12. No more polite smiles and stern looks! It’s time to attack!

    Bring forth the lawyers!

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 7:34pm
  13. It shouldn’t matter your orientation, race, or color. You’re a human!

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 7:39pm
  14. <3

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 8:55pm
  15. Keep the lawsuits coming. The state of Utah needs to take sleeping bags and stay at the courthouse since they are there so much.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 9:24pm
  16. beautiful pic.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 10:28pm
  17. Awe. Too cute.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 10:30pm
  18. Right on ACLU!

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 10:31pm
  19. Such a beautiful family.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 10:34pm
  20. So sweet: )

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 10:36pm
  21. Gay guys with kids are always so adorable!

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 10:42pm
  22. que cool

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 10:46pm
  23. very nice congraulationsxx

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 10:47pm
  24. finally

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 10:51pm
  25. I love it. Let’s sink those loser/haters even deeper!!

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 10:53pm
  26. Have been a contributor on a monthly basis since 2002.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 10:56pm
  27. Nice family :)

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 10:56pm
  28. I think every university in every state that doesn’t recognize gay marriage should do the same

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 10:56pm
  29. I know I am in the minority but I blame the judge and not the state over this. A stay should have been granted by the judge until the issue completed its journey through the court system. The judiciary can strike laws as unconstitutional but striking a law designed to reinforce something negative does not immediately make what was banned legal if it never existed before.

    For example: if a legislature passed a law changing the driving age from 16 to 18 and that law was overturned it would go back to being 16. What we have here is a case where the overturning of the 18 year old requirement is being interpreted to mean that there can be no age requirement at all.

    The judiciary brought confusion and turmoil into these peoples lives by making a ruling that would be appealed and then not staying its ruling pending appeal.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 10:59pm
  30. Keep upbthe good work

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 11:06pm
  31. How can anyone hate the love in this pic?

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 11:08pm
  32. Very beautiful family good bless you guys! .♡♥

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 11:22pm
  33. Happy

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 11:27pm
  34. A happy coupe they should have the same rights as straight couple.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 11:30pm
  35. get them

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 11:49pm
  36. Don’t get to to sue the Church of Latter Day Saints while you’re at it

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 11:55pm
  37. Does averyone “Have” to except it? or is this still a free country?

    Posted on Wednesday, January 22, 2014 at 12:11am
  38. Cheryl.. (averyone)? no, but everyone should ! Americans are born with equal rights , because we are a Free Country...yes?

    Replied on Wednesday, January 22, 2014 at 12:59am
  39. Right on. But that state should say no, men cannot marry a women, because most men who uses women for money and sex without getting caught by the state.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 22, 2014 at 12:19am
  40. What a great looking family!!!

    Posted on Wednesday, January 22, 2014 at 12:20am
  41. Now FL is being sued too

    Posted on Wednesday, January 22, 2014 at 12:26am
  42. aclu #1

    Posted on Wednesday, January 22, 2014 at 12:39am
  43. Right on ACLU!!!!!!! Keep up the fight!!!!!

    Posted on Wednesday, January 22, 2014 at 12:51am
  44. Look like a great family.
    .

    Posted on Wednesday, January 22, 2014 at 1:06am
  45. Why would you sue a state for not legalizing gay marriage? I am not supportive of them denying but it’s a state issue and they’re not required to legalize it.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 22, 2014 at 1:27am
  46. good

    Posted on Wednesday, January 22, 2014 at 2:15am
  47. Beautiful family!

    Posted on Wednesday, January 22, 2014 at 2:17am
  48. very cute picture. im wondering, what do the kids think about same sex couples adopting them. im just curious, i dont mean this in a rude way. . .i just saw the pic and it made me wonder, i know kids are very humble. and do any of them not want to be adopted but gays ? any one every hear or read about that

    Posted on Wednesday, January 22, 2014 at 2:23am
  49. Bravo ACLU !!!

    Posted on Wednesday, January 22, 2014 at 2:27am
  50. why all the hate?

    Posted on Wednesday, January 22, 2014 at 2:29am
  51. Utah is hating big time because they are about to be schooled by the higher courts who don't give a shxt that they, Utah, want to keep bigotry enshrined in their state's laws. Oh the irony!

    Replied on Wednesday, January 22, 2014 at 3:07am
  52. Yessssssss What a wonderful family

    Posted on Wednesday, January 22, 2014 at 2:46am
  53. You can sue people for that? Dude, let’s sue Putin!

    Posted on Wednesday, January 22, 2014 at 2:59am
  54. SUE their socks-off ! This is the ‘area’ that gave MILLIONS to Prop 8..a few years back…NOH8…grrr

    Posted on Wednesday, January 22, 2014 at 3:01am
  55. Amazing family!!! Bless you my darlings!!!! xo

    Posted on Wednesday, January 22, 2014 at 4:31am
  56. No-one should care if a person is straight or gay, isnt the point all about finding love and being as happy as you can be with the person of your choosing. Well done guys, you make a wonderful family♡♡♡.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 22, 2014 at 5:36am
  57. That’s right! Stick it to those LDS motherfuckers!

    Posted on Wednesday, January 22, 2014 at 5:54am
  58. The ACLU is amazing!!!! Yeah!

    Posted on Wednesday, January 22, 2014 at 6:00am
  59. Amazing picture! Amazing!… And of course go ACLU!

    Posted on Wednesday, January 22, 2014 at 6:07am
  60. Love makes a family…a beautiful one at that <3

    Posted on Wednesday, January 22, 2014 at 6:40am
  61. what a cute family

    Posted on Wednesday, January 22, 2014 at 7:08am
  62. well ThaSavage most orfense

    Posted on Wednesday, January 22, 2014 at 7:14am
  63. just want to be loved they dont care who it is

    Posted on Wednesday, January 22, 2014 at 7:14am
  64. It’s coming down. Not too much longer.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 22, 2014 at 10:56am
  65. This Picture Is So Awesome.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 22, 2014 at 11:32am
  66. Beautiful family

    Posted on Wednesday, January 22, 2014 at 12:39pm
  67. nice family !

    Posted on Wednesday, January 22, 2014 at 1:08pm
  68. Absolutely beautiful

    Posted on Wednesday, January 22, 2014 at 2:19pm