UPDATED Friday 6:20 p.m.   Same-sex couples who were married in Utah during an interval in court proceedings did not wait to file an answer to the attempt by state officials to deny recognition of those marriages until after a state appeal is decided.  Their response on Friday contended that their marriages were fully legally when performed, so it would be unconstitutional to undo them now.  The Tenth Circuit had given them until next Thursday to file, but they opted to submit their papers swiftly.


Some 1,300 Utah same-sex couples who got married in the seventeen-day interval before the Supreme Court stopped such unions must wait at least another week until they could gain official state recognition of their new marital status.  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit on Thursday postponed until at least June 12 a federal judge’s order requiring such recognition.  It did so at the request of Utah state officials, who are appealing that decision as well as another judge’s earlier decision striking down the state’s ban on such marriages.

The constitutional dispute over same-sex marriage in Utah is the furthest along in the federal courts of all of the cases on that issue since the Supreme Court’s United States v. Windsor decision last June, which federal judges are interpreting as a sign that bans on such marriages can no longer stand.  The Tenth Circuit is expected to rule soon, with a chance of becoming the first federal court at that level to act on the question in the wake of an unbroken series of federal district court rulings to allow such marriages.

Only two of those district court rulings have gone into effect, in Oregon and Pennsylvania; no one with a right to appeal those cases has done so, so same-sex marriages are now proceeding in those states.  None of the other district court rulings are now in effect, since all of those have been put on hold — by the Supreme Court, in the Utah case, or by lower courts for the other states.

In Utah, state officials are now pursuing two appeals:  first, challenging the decision by one judge in December striking down the ban, which the Tenth Circuit heard in April, and, second, challenging a decision by a different judge last month ordering state officials to recognize marriages performed between December 20 and January 6.

The separate recognition decision was due to go into effect next Monday.  But state officials on Thursday asked the Tenth Circuit to delay that ruling while the state pursues its appeal in that case.  Later in the day Thursday, the Tenth Circuit issued a delay order, to remain in effect until at least June 12 — next Thursday.   The couples seeking recognition of their marriages must file a response on the delay issue by that date.

In urging the appeals court to put the recognition issue on hold, state officials argued that the Supreme Court’s January 6 postponement of the decision striking down the Utah ban means that the ban is now back in force, so the state cannot recognize any marriages between same-sex partners.

If the state wins its appeal, and the judge’s decision against the ban is overturned, the couples who managed to obtain marriage licenses and had their marriages performed will never have had the right to marry, the state’s motion contended.   The ban was only temporarily suspended during those seventeen days when some 1,300 couples seized what they deemed to be an opening and got married, according to the state.

The fact that the Tenth Circuit issued a temporary stay order on Thursday does not necessarily mean it will issue a longer delay after the same-sex couples involved in the recognition case file their written legal answer.


Posted in Same-Sex Marriage Post-Windsor, Cases in the Pipeline

Recommended Citation: Lyle Denniston, Utah: Married same-sex couples must wait (UPDATED), SCOTUSblog (Jun. 6, 2014, 1:50 PM), http://www.scotusblog.com/2014/06/utah-married-same-sex-couples-must-wait/