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Mixed signals on new Utah same-sex marriages

Same-sex couples who got married during the seventeen-day interval when that was allowed under court order have now been told by state officials that — for the time being — the state will not recognize them as legally wed.  That was one part of a mixed message from the governor’s office Tuesday night that created new layers of uncertainty as the issue of same-sex marriage continues in the courts.

“State recognition of same-sex marital status is ON HOLD until further notice,” the Utah governor’s chief of staff said in an email message to the governor’s cabinet members.  This position, the statement went on, “is not intended to comment on the legal status of those same-sex marriages — that is for the courts to decide.”

In the meantime, however, the message said that the Supreme Court’s order on Monday — which blocked the federal judge’s ruling that had led nearly a thousand same-sex couples to obtain marriage licenses (and, for some of them, to get married) — had put back into effect state laws that “include not only a prohibition of performing same-sex marriages but also recognizing same-sex marriages.”

Even so, the governor’s staff made one concession to newly married gays and lesbians:  if they had already changed their names on their driver’s licenses to reflect their new marital status, “those licenses should not be revoked.”  No new licenses with such changes will be issued, however, according to the message.

Meanwhile, the state’s attorney general, Sean D. Reyes, said in an official statement on Wednesday that the question of the ultimate validity of same-sex marriages already performed will depend upon what happens as court appeals by the state continue.  With the state ban now back in effect, Reyes said, “the state is bound by law” to limit any benefits that married same-sex couples may now seek.

Recommended Citation: Lyle Denniston, Mixed signals on new Utah same-sex marriages, SCOTUSblog (Jan. 8, 2014, 1:11 PM),