UPDATE: Governor Gary Herbert’s Office tells FOX 13 that should the U.S. Supreme Court rule against Utah, he will comply and direct state agencies to offer benefits to married same-sex couples.
Gov. Herbert believes that states should define marriage, but respects the process that ends with a ruling by the nation’s top court, spokesman Marty Carpenter told FOX 13’s Ben Winslow.
The governor continues to believe that the appropriate decision would be to keep the stay in place, pending a decision in the larger case over Amendment 3.
SALT LAKE CITY — In a filing with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, lawyers for four gay and lesbian couples asked her to reject Utah’s request to halt recognition of same-sex marriage.
The filing, a response to one filed the day before by the Utah Attorney General’s Office, urges Justice Sotomayor to deny the emergency stay request.
“In seeking to nullify marriages that were legal at the time they were solemnized, Defendants seek to do something that is unprecedented in our nation’s history,” lawyers for the ACLU wrote, insisting that the more than 1,200 same-sex marriages performed after Amendment 3 was overturned are valid.
The Utah Attorney General’s Office argued in its filing that the U.S. Supreme Court was likely to take up the case that overturned Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage, and would indeed reverse it. The ACLU disagreed.
Read the filing by the ACLU here:
“If any legal uncertainty currently exists, it is the product of Defendants’ own
intransigence in retroactively applying Utah’s marriage amendment in an unprecedented way and filing a series of petitions for extraordinary relief to avoid complying with federal and state court orders that reject their incorrect and unconstitutional interpretation,” the ACLU wrote. “Granting a stay pending appeal will only prolong the legal limbo that Defendants have created. It is in the interest of all parties and the public at large to end that legal limbo as quickly as possible.”
More than 1,200 same-sex couples married after Amendment 3 was overturned by U.S. District Court Judge Robert Shelby in December 2013. The state went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court to ask for a stay. It was granted after 17 days of marriages.
After that, Governor Gary Herbert ordered state agencies not to recognize the marriages, nor provide benefits to the couples — such as adoptions and tax filings (although the Utah Tax Commission did allow married same-sex couples to file joint 2013 tax returns).
Four married same-sex couples and the ACLU sued. A federal judge ordered the state to recognize the marriages. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently upheld that decision.
The federal appeals court also recently ruled that Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. The state is in the midst of preparing to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to hear their appeal of that decision.
Justice Sotomayor could ask the full court to decide on the request for stay, or decide herself. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which rejected Utah’s request, set a Monday deadline on whether the state should recognize the marriages.