Utah Court Debates Decision to Halt Same-Sex Marriages

by Norris Law Group on March 21, 2014

the-us-will-recognize-same-sex-marriages-from-utahOn March 12, 2014, Brooke Adams of the Salt Lake City Tribune wrote that two state attorneys suggested to a federal judge that same-sex couples who believe they’ve been harmed by Utah’s decision to freeze their marriages rights brought about the “problem” through their own actions.

Assistant Utah Attorney General Kyle J. Kaiser told a US District Court judge that couples who married after Utah’s Amendment 3 was found unconstitutional by a federal district court on December 20, 2013 already knew the state was seeking to stay the ruling and planned an appeal.

Assistant Utah Attorney General Joni J. Jones also told the judge that these couples “had no rights under Utah law” until the Dec. 20 decision and once the ruling was stayed, they did not retain any vested rights: “There is no question this is an emotional issue, but the state has taken a position of respecting the plaintiffs’ rights and respecting the legal process.”

Between December 20 and January 6—when the US Supreme Court stayed the federal judge’s decision, approximately 1200 same-sex couples married in Utah. Four of these couples brought the current suit against the state of Utah.

Joshua Block, an attorney with the national ACLU’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Project, said the state’s move to strip recognition from marriages already performed would be unprecedented: “That institution, once created, has special constitutional protections.”

The plaintiffs want the federal court to ask the Utah Supreme Court to decide if the couples have vested rights to their marriages under the Utah Constitution, and whether those rights could later be withdrawn. At present, the state clearly objects to that, saying that same-sex marriages are clearly not legal under state law due to the stay. Additionally, Amendment 3 (banning same-sex marriages in Utah) was approved by Utah voters in 2004.

Erik Strindberg, an attorney for one of the four same-sex couples who brought the suit against the state,  is quoted: “Basically these people either have rights associated with marriage or they don’t have any rights. There is no in-between. … The people who got married, got married because they were in love, the law in place at the time allowed them to get married, why not take advantage of that? …They had the right to be married under Utah law, so they got married.”

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. Contact them today at 801-932-1238 or online for a free consultation.

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