Utah Supreme Court steps into same-sex adoption cases

Posted at 9:45 PM, May 16, 2014

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Supreme Court has waded into the highly contentious legal battle over adoptions involving legally married same-sex couples.

In an order issued Friday night, the Utah Supreme Court granted the Utah Attorney General’s request to stay a series of orders by district court judges, telling the health department to issue revised birth certificates reflecting what are known as “second-parent adoptions.”

“Enforcement of the district court orders mandating or authorizing Petitioner to issue birth certificates is stayed until the Court can address the petitions for extraordinary relief,” the court wrote.

Read the Utah Supreme Court’s order here

The court will schedule arguments between the state and lawyers for legally married same-sex couples who have been fighting the state over the birth certificates.

On Thursday, FOX 13 reported one of those couples had threatened Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes and Dr. David Patton, the director of the Utah Department of Health, with contempt of court for refusing to issue a birth certificate. A judge had scheduled a June 16 hearing on that issue.

The Utah Supreme Court’s intervention is expected to halt that, although legal analysts have said the state could still have to answer for why it did not issue the birth certificates despite a judge’s order instructing them to do so.

Lawyers for Utah have argued that while it appeals a federal judge’s ruling overturning Amendment 3 (the state’s ban on same-sex marriage), the law remains in place. Last year, a federal judge ruled that Amendment 3 violates same-sex couples rights under the U.S. Constitution, opening the door for gay marriage in the state.

Because the state believes Amendment 3 is in place, it cannot issue any benefits to same-sex couples — even those legally married in Utah. Amendment 3, passed by voters in 2004, defines marriage as between a man and a woman and does not recognize anything else.