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Herbert: State Won't Recognize Gay Marriages

The state of Utah has said that it will not recognize the marriages of same-sex couples who were married after a federal judge struck down Utah's ban on gay marriage last month.

As a result same-sex couples married in Utah between that Dec. 20 decision and the order on Monday by the U.S. Supreme Court to stay the decision - cannot reap the benefits of legal marriage. KCPW's Roger McDonough has the story:

Derek Miller, Gov. Gary Herbert's chief of staff, says the state believes the stay by the Supreme Court means that gay marriage must once again not be recognized in Utah:

"Based on the stay that the U.S. Supreme Court granted on Jan. 6 and on advice of our council, we've directed our state agencies to put everything on hold."

Miller says the state's order means that any incomplete processes by a same-sex couple related to their married status, is on hold.

"We're asking our state agencies and directing them to put the process on hold as well. So wherever people were at, in whatever process they were in, that is now on hold. We believe that it is the prudent thing to do, but more than that, we believe that it is what the law requires."

"I think the practical effect of what they're doing is not just simply reverting back to the laws as written. I think that the practical effect is to attempt to retroactively invalidate marriages that have already happened with valid marriage licenses."

John Mejia, legal director for the ACLU of Utah disagrees with the state's decision and says that the rights of marriage are vested in the marriage itself, not in the state's discretionary judgment.

"The state of Utah issued valid marriage licenses to these couples... and when they took their marriage vows in reliance of those licenses, all of the rights and protections and obligations of a marriage, vested in those couples. And the decision to publicly say that the state will put on hold the recognition of those marriages I think is wrong and disappointing because marriage is not a right or an obligation that is going to happen over time - it immediately vests in the people that are married."

Mejia says that all options are on the table, but that it is too early to say whether the ACLU of Utah will take any legal action in the wake of the state's directive.

In the meantime, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver has asked for briefs from the state of Utah and plaintiffs by the end of February, in the state's appeal to last month's ruling. From that point forward whatever decision is reached is almost certain to be appealed, and may very well also make its way before the U.S. Supreme Court.  

With KCPW Radio in Salt Lake City, I'm Roger McDonough for Utah Public Radio.