While marriage equality in Utah is on hold as the case makes its way through the appeal process, the governor has decided that though he can’t un-marry the hundreds of same-sex couples that got licenses and then married in the three weeks that the window was open, the state can deny them the benefits the couples would be entitled to.
Based on counsel from the Attorney General’s Office regarding the Supreme Court decision, state recognition of same-sex marital status is ON HOLD until further notice. Please understand this position is not intended to comment on the legal status of those same-sex marriages – that is for the courts to decide. The intent of this communication is to direct state agency compliance with current laws that prohibit the state from recognizing same-sex marriages. Wherever individuals are in the process of availing themselves of state services related to same-sex marital status, that process is on hold and will stay exactly in that position until a final court decision is issued. For example, if a same-sex married couple previously changed their names on new drivers licenses, those licenses should not be revoked. If a same-sex couple seeks to change their names on drivers licenses now, the law does not allow the state agency to recognize the marriage therefore the new drivers licenses cannot be issued.
This situation sounds like the definition of unequal justice under the law. Same-sex couples who were legally married on December 23 in Salt Lake City are just as married as an opposite sex couple married on the same day, but they’re denied the benefits now. It’s more than just drivers licenses; what about parental rights for children being raised by these couples? School registration? Hospital visitation? Inheritance and survivor benefits? The lawsuits will be lined up around the block.
Last week the state announced they planned to spend $2 million to fight the marriage equality ruling. That’s a drop in the bucket compared to what they’re going to spend now.
HT to JMG.