Utah temporarily became the 18th state to legalize same-sex
marriage when a U.S. federal district judge ruled on December 20
that a state ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional. His ruling
was put on hold this week by the U.S. Supreme Court, but not before
roughly 1,400 gay couples tied the knot.
The office of Utah's Republican governor said on Wednesday the state
would not recognize those marriages, at least for now, as state
attorneys appeal the case before the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals
State agencies were also directed to freeze any applications for
state marriage benefits. But Utah has said it is not questioning the
legal status of the marriages even as it puts recognition of the
unions on hold, saying that was a matter for the courts to decide.
In a letter sent on Thursday to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder,
the Human Rights Campaign said the couples and their families should
have access to federal benefits.
The letter notes a June 2013 U.S. Supreme Court ruling found that
same-sex married couples were entitled to "equal protection and
equal treatment under the law."
"Given this landscape of facts, there is simply no reason for the
United States government not to extend federal recognition to these
more than 1,300 couples," said the letter, by Human Rights Campaign
President Chad Griffin.
Griffin said he was seeking an advisory opinion declaring that all
legally conferred marriages should be treated equally and
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In a separate letter, his group also asked the attorneys general of
the 17 states where same-sex unions are legal to recognize Utah's
A Department of Justice official who had not been authorized to
speak on the record confirmed that the letter had been received. A
message seeking comment from Utah Governor Gary Herbert's office was
not immediately returned.
Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes on Thursday told county clerks to
provide marriage certificates to same-sex couples whose wedding
ceremonies happened before the top U.S. court's ruling.
Although Utah will not recognize the marriages, providing paperwork
amounted to an administrative, not legal, function, Reyes said. It
would give gay couples proper documentation in states where their
marriages are legal.
"Based on our analysis of Utah law, the marriages were recognized at
the time the ceremony was completed," Reyes said in a statement.
(Reporting by Jennifer Dobner in Salt Lake City;
reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; editing by Cynthia Johnston
and Lisa Shumaker)
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