SALT LAKE CITY — Utah governor Gary Herbert’s office late Tuesday instructed state agencies not to recognize the marriages of same-sex couples that were solemnized in the 17 days between a federal judge’s ruling to allow same-sex marriage in Utah, and the U.S. Supreme Court decision Monday to stay the ruling pending appeal.
The letter, signed by Herbert’s chief of staff, indicated that “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.”
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.
More than 1,000 same-sex couples obtained marriage licenses from county clerks in Utah in the past two weeks – but not all of them legally married.
Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen says the marriage license itself means nothing unless there is a ceremony with an officiator and two witnesses.