With stay in place, same-sex couples seek legal advice

Posted at 9:38 PM, Jan 07, 2014
and last updated 2014-01-07 23:38:09-05

OGDEN -- While same-sex couples wait for a ruling from the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals on Amendment 3, those who got married are left wondering where they stand with the state.

A forum was held at the Pleasant Valley Library in Ogden where dozens gathered to get legal advice. LGBT couples had a lot of questions about their rights when it came to adoption, health care and tax returns; the uncertainty however really centers on the legality of the same-sex marriages that took place before the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay.

"Same-sex couples should proceed knowing that they should have the same rights and responsibilities as any other married couple in Utah," said Lauren Barros, an attorney who specializes in family law.

The LGBT community has endured a roller coaster ride of confusion over what SCOTUS' stay on Amendment 3 really means. While gay marriages can't be performed until the 10th circuit court of Appeals makes a decision, many are left asking: is our marriage still valid?

Legal experts say yes. Some say they've already faced roadblocks.

"My wife is a teacher and I was very excited about the possibility of being on her health insurance plan, the office was closed during Christmas break so yesterday afternoon after work she went over to the office to apply for benefits for me and for our daughter and was told no," said Marian Edmonds-Allen with the OUTreach Resource Center.

"The State of Utah and the attorney general’s office has said they aren't sure what the stay means and there is no legal precedent in any other state to say that these marriages are not valid so I think she should proceed and say to them no this marriage is a valid marriage and unless there's some ruling from a court that says otherwise she should continue to make that request," answered Barros.

Barros said there will continue to be confusion until the Amendment 3 cases reaches the highest court. Until then she says it's fair to assume the more than 1,000 same sex marriages performed before the stay are in fact, legal.

"I think it will all be cleared up when the 10th circuit issues its ruling and if necessary when the U.S. Supreme Court issues its ruling but I think there are plenty of judges who will say those are valid marriages," Barros said.

The Attorney General's Office is expected to release its legal opinion about the validity of those marriages sometime Wednesday.