SALT LAKE CITY – Though disappointed by the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court not to hear Utah’s request for decision on its marriage definition statute, Gov. Gary Herbert said in a press conference and resulting statement Monday that Utah will honor the decision and proceed to recognize same-sex marriages.
Earlier this morning, the U.S. Supreme Court announced it would not take up cases from Utah and a handful of other states concerning district court challenges of marriage statutes banning same-sex marriage. This effectively upheld the decision of lower courts that ruled state-level laws prohibiting same-sex marriage unconstitutional. It also ended the stay that the high court had placed on those rulings.
Following the high court’s decision, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals issued an order to Utah and other states under its jurisdiction to recognize the same-sex marriages.
“I am surprised and disappointed that the Supreme Court has made the decision not to consider Utah’s case, or any similar case from another state,” Herbert said, adding he believed the case deserved to be heard by the court.
“As I have said all along, the people of Utah and people across the country deserve clarity with respect to the law. It is best if that clarity comes from the nation’s highest court,” he said.
Herbert called the decision groundbreaking and historic, and that it would have a significant impact on the culture and laws of the land. However, he also said Utah is a state that believes in upholding the law, and the law has been determined.
“I believe states should have the right to determine their own laws regarding marriage,” Herbert said in a statement following Monday’s press conference. “That said, we are a society of laws and we will uphold the law. I have instructed state agencies to implement necessary changes in light of today’s news.”
The governor also asked people to be kind and respectful of others as the process moves forward.
“I encourage all Utahns – regardless of their personal beliefs on this issue – to treat each other with respect,” he said.
Southern Utah counties
Initially, a number of counties were holding off on issuing any new marriage licenses to same-sex couples until getting clearance from their respective county attorneys.
Washington County Clerk Kim Hafen said that as for Washington County, though the situation was likely short-term, the county’s clerks would issue licenses to same-sex couples once it was cleared by the Utah Attorney General’s Office and filtered down to the counties.
It’s estimated that over 1,200 same-sex couples were issued marriage licenses between Dec. 20, 2013 and Jan 6, 2014 following the original ruling by a federal District Judge Robert Shelby that Utah’s prohibition on same-sex marriage is illegal; Justice Sonia Sotomayer for the Supreme Court eventually stayed that ruling pending final disposition of the appeal by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit. Utah deferred appeal through the 10th circuit, instead petitioning the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in on the issues, which, Monday, the high court denied.
Aside from Washington County, other counties, such as Garfield, Kane, Iron and Beaver, may not see a significant number of heterosexual or same-sex couples apply for marriage licenses due to their lower populations.
Iron County Clerk David Yardley said about four same-sex couples applied for marriage licenses during the 17-day window when same-sex marriage was originally legal in the state. As of early Monday afternoon, no couples had applied for any license, he said.
No same-sex couples applied for marriage licenses in Garfield County during the original window, its County Clerk Camille Moore said. On average, she said the county issues just around four marriage licenses a month.
In order to better accommodate same-sex couples who seek marriage lisences, Moore said the Utah Office of Vital Records and Statistics informs county clerks that it will have a new form issued within the next 24 hours.
It’s for legal purposes, Yardley said.
“For instance,” he said. “You would see applicant one and applicant two instead of bride and groom at the top of the form.”
Opposing views remain
Rep. Chris Stewart issued the following statement:
I am disappointed by the Supreme Court’s refusal to take up Utah’s marriage appeal today. I personally believe that marriage is between one man and one woman and believe that Utahns have the right to decide what’s best for Utah. I am disappointed that the Supreme Court has failed to provide certainty and clarity for Utahns on this issue.
From Equality Utah:
We are thrilled the Supreme Court is letting the Tenth Circuit victory stand, which means that same-sex couples in Utah and the rest of the Tenth Circuit, now have the freedom to marry and to have their marriages treated equally. This is a huge step forward for Utah and the entire country. A hearty congratulations to all of these couples!
The St. George branch of Equaility Utah is planning a celebration at the gazebo in Vernon Worthen Park in St. George at 6:30 p.m.
St. George News and KCSG Reporter Carin Miller contributed to this story.
- Oct 6 2014 10th Circuit Stay lifted in Kitchen v Herbert
- Herbert v Kitchen Petition for Writ of Certiorari and Appendix
- US Supreme Court denies hearing Utah’s petition on marriage statute
- High court may consider hearing Utah’s same-sex marriage case
- State files cert petition with Supreme Court in defense of marriage laws
- Supreme Court grants stay on same-sex marriage recognition
- Appeals court denies Utah’s request to stay recognition of same-sex marriages
- State leaders, others respond to court striking down Amendment 3
- Judge orders Utah to recognize same-sex marriages from 17-day window
- Big company names throw support behind same-sex marriage
- Perspectives: The greatest threat to marriage, loss of sanctity
- ON Kilter: The gay marriage debate is over
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