Utah clerks balk at issuing marriage licenses to gays
SALT LAKE CITY — Some county clerks in Utah refused on Tuesday to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, even though they could face legal consequences. A judge stuck down the state's ban on same-sex marriage in a surprise ruling on Friday.
The Utah attorney general's office has warned counties they could be held in contempt of federal court if they refuse to issue the licenses.
At the same time, state lawyers have asked a federal appeals court to halt the judge's ruling and stop any more same-sex marriages.
More than 700 same-sex couples have married in Utah since Friday.
Among those refusing to grant marriage licenses to gay couples is Utah County Clerk Bryan Thompson, who said he was waiting for the Denver-based 10th Circuit Court of Appeals to rule on Utah's motion for a stay before deciding his next move. The court is considering arguments and could rule at any time.
A lesbian couple filed a lawsuit Monday against Utah County because of its refusal, but Thompson said he was remaining steadfast against giving up any licenses to any same-sex couples.
“Until I receive further information, the Utah County Clerk's Office will not be making any policy changes in regards to which we issue marriage licenses,” Thompson said Tuesday.
A spokesman for the attorney general's office, Ryan Bruckman, said the office was not giving legal guidance to clerks' offices.
The U.S. Attorney's Office said prosecution of county clerks is unlikely. The holdouts wouldn't face sanctions unless the plaintiffs who sued Utah asked the judge for a contempt finding, said Melodie Rydalch, a spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney David Barlow.
Lawyers for the state are trying every legal avenue to halt the practice and are waiting for the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to rule on a request to stop the issuing of licenses to gay couples while the appeals process plays out.
U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby, who issued Friday's landmark ruling, already rejected the state's request to bring the marriages to a halt on Monday.
In the meantime, state agencies have begun trying to sort out how the gay marriages may impact state services.
Gov. Gary Herbert's office sent a letter to state agencies Tuesday afternoon advising them to comply with the judge's ruling or consult the Utah attorney general's office if the ruling conflicts with other laws or rules.
The Utah Department of Workforce Services, which administers programs such as food stamps and welfare, is recognizing the marriages of gay couples when they apply for benefits, spokesman Nic Dunn told The Associated Press on Tuesday.
It's unclear whether Utah will allow married same-sex couples to jointly file their state income tax returns next year, as they will be able to do for federal returns.
Charlie Roberts, a spokesman for the Utah State Tax Commission, said the agency still needs to consult the Utah attorney general's office about the issue.
In October, the commission stipulated that because Utah did not recognize same-sex marriages, same-sex couples who had married out of state could not file jointly in Utah.
The state income tax forms do not currently require filers to specify gender, so it's possible same-sex couples could have already filed jointly in previous years, but Roberts said the commission never been aware of such as case.
Utah is the 18th state where gay couples can wed or will soon be able to marry. The legal wrangling over the topic will likely continue for months. The 10th Circuit will likely will hear the full appeal of the case several months from now.
Even if the 10th Circuit grants a stay or overturns the ruling, legal analyst say the marriage licenses that already have been issued probably will remain valid.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Cost of taking fight to ISIS pegged at $2.4B to $6.8B a year
- Supreme Court blocks start of early Ohio voting
- IRS not wholly tracking dodgers, report finds
- Weather extremes linked to global warming
- Schools grapple with immigration overload
- Feds ask to close court hearing on Guantanamo Bay hunger striker
- Test cheating scheme in Atlanta goes to trial
- NSA relies on 1981 executive order signed by Reagan
- 3 whistle-blowers in VA scandal settle complaints they were punished
- Indian premier stars at New York rally
- Intruder made it to East Room of White House, overpowered Secret Service officer