SALT LAKE CITY — After a federal judge suggested that county clerks may be breaking the law, several counties in Utah began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
The Utah Attorney General’s Office said Tuesday it is encouraging county clerks to consult with their legal counsel to ensure compliance with Judge Robert Shelby’s ruling declaring Amendment 3 unconstitutional.
Those that continue to refuse to issue them could be held in contempt, a spokesman for the Utah Attorney General’s Office said.
“Those who are not issuing marriage licenses now could face potential problems if they continue to deny marriage licenses,” Utah Attorney General’s spokesman Ryan Bruckman told FOX 13 on Tuesday. “They could be held in contempt.”
But county clerks are not likely to be prosecuted because they could claim they were acting on the advice of legal counsel and had no criminal intent.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for Utah said couples who are denied licenses could get a judge to seek a contempt charge in a civil lawsuit.
“The plaintiffs or parties that are aggrieved by this could ask a judge for contempt,” said Melodie Rydalch, a spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney for Utah David Barlow.
The Juab County Clerk’s Office reversed its position Tuesday and said it is issuing marriage licenses. The Carbon County Attorney’s Office also confirmed the county clerk issued a marriage license to a same-sex couple on Tuesday.
That leaves Piute, Utah, and Box Elder counties as those who have told FOX 13 they will not issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, despite the potential for criminal charges. The San Juan County Clerk’s Office said Tuesday it has not been asked to issue a license to a same-sex couple, but would “consult with our attorney” if it was.
Piute County Commissioner Darin Bushman tweeted to FOX 13’s Ben Winslow their clerk is on vacation and no couple — gay or straight — was getting a marriage license. The tiny county typically only issues three marriage licenses per year, he said.
“It works something like this, if you want something from the clerk you wait until she’s in the office,” he tweeted.
The Utah County Clerk has given similar reasoning, and has denied same-sex couples married licenses since Friday. On Monday, county clerk Brian Thompson was served with a lawsuit for refusing to issue a license.
A protest was also held outside the Utah County Clerk’s Office on Tuesday morning over his decision.