Utah can’t recognize marriages it performed after Amendment 3, state claims in court papers

Posted at 10:59 PM, Feb 26, 2014
and last updated 2014-02-27 18:38:17-05

SALT LAKE CITY — The state of Utah asked a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed on behalf of same-sex couples who wed here, only to have the state refuse to recognize those marriages.

In a filing in U.S. District Court late Wednesday, the Utah Attorney General’s Office asked a federal judge to reject part of the American Civil Liberties Union’s lawsuit. The ACLU of Utah sued on behalf of four same-sex couples who married in the aftermath of another judge’s ruling that declared Amendment 3 — Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage — unconstitutional.

After initially ordering the state to recognize the estimated 1,360 same-sex marriages performed in the days after that ruling, Governor Gary Herbert reversed his position and said the state would not offer any benefits or services to married same-sex couples.

The Utah State Tax Commission is allowing legally wed same-sex couples to file joint tax returns for 2014 only.

In their filing, obtained by FOX 13, Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes’ office cited Amendment 3 as the reason it cannot recognize the marriages that were performed here.

“Utah’s constitution is clear: ‘No other domestic union, [other than a marriage between a man and a woman], however denominated, may be recognized as a marriage or given the same or substantially equivalent legal effect,'” the attorney general’s office wrote, citing the text of Amendment 3.

Because the U.S. Supreme Court granted a stay on same-sex marriages pending the state’s appeal of the Amendment 3 ruling, Reyes’ office argued the amendment remained in effect.

“Because Article I, Section 29 prohibits the State from recognizing any other civil union beyond an opposite-sex marriage, the Due Process clause in the Utah Constitution cannot require the state to recognize Plaintiffs’ same-sex marriages,” the state wrote in the filing.

The Utah Attorney General’s Office also sought to dismiss the ACLU’s lawsuit — at least in part — on procedural grounds.

Read the Utah Attorney General’s filing here.

“Their arguments really don’t make sense,” John Mejia, the legal director of the ACLU of Utah told FOX 13 on Thursday. “These folks are married, they married a few months ago and they deserve all the same recognitions as any other couple.”

Mejia said the state’s arguments “are not at all persuasive.”

“We look forward to the time when these marriages — that are valid — will be recognized,” he said.

The ACLU plans to respond. The judge has scheduled arguments in the case for mid-March.