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Utah AG May Be Held in Contempt In Same-Sex Adoption Cases

by Norris Law Group on May 21, 2014

Utah AG May Be Held in Contempt In Same-Sex Adoption CasesAccording to the Salt Lake Tribune, a Utah state court judge has ordered representatives from the Utah Attorney General’s Office and several other Utah government agencies to appear in court on June 16, 2014 to explain why they have refused to honor same-sex adoptions in the state.

Attorney General Sean Reyes, Executive Director of the Utah Department of Health W. David Patton, and State Registrar of the Office of Vital Records Janice Houston may be held in contempt of court if they refuse to appear or do not respond adequately. The crime of contempt is punishable by fines, incarceration, or both.

The Utah Attorney General’s Office responded to the summons on May 15 by asking the state’s highest court to issue an emergency order halting all adoption orders until the Utah Supreme Court makes a ruling as to the legality of Utah same-sex adoptions—and, by extension, the marriages of same-sex couples in which one spouse is seeking adoptive rights as a step-parent. The Utah AG’s office asked the Utah Supreme Court for a similar “emergency relief” request in April 2014, but the high court did not take up the issue.

Utah Governor Gary Herbert maintains that Utah will not recognize the marriages, based on a January 2014 stay on a federal judge’s ruling to overturn Amendment 3 on the grounds that it is unconstitutional because it denies same-sex couples their 4th Amendment rights to equal protection in the U.S. Constitution. The U.S. Supreme Court issued January 2014 stay. Gov. Herbert also acknowledged that these same-sex marriages might be recognized in other states where same-sex marriages are currently legal. Gay and lesbian couples who married in Utah were also allowed to file joint state and federal tax returns for the first time this year and to receive federal benefits.

Utah contends that these marriages cannot be recognized because the January 2014 stay by the U.S. Supreme Court will not legally allow it. Same-sex marriage advocates, however, say that this is a “convenient excuse because it allows state officials to retain the status quo at the expense of Utah families.” Cliff Rosky, University of Utah law professor and Equality Utah chairman, is quoted: “The Utah attorney general doesn’t get to declare what the law is; only the courts of Utah can declare Utah law…Nevermind the personal toll this takes — what could be more devastating to a family than looking at a child and her mother and saying, ‘You’re not really a parent; that’s not really your parent.’ When the law has already said yes, she is.”

Attorney Graham Norris and his associates at the Norris Law Group serve the residents of Utah County and throughout Utah in the area of divorce and family law. Contact them today at 801-932-1238 or online for a free consultation.

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