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Utah Attorney General issues statement on Supreme Court stay

LGBT Legal Cases Marriage equality Marriage Equality Trials

Another quick piece of news out of Utah–Attorney  General Sean Reyes issued the following statement regarding the Supreme Court’s stay of a district court ruling allowing same-sex couples in the state to wed:

There is not clear legal precedence for this particular situation. This is the uncertainty that we were trying to avoid by asking the District Court for a stay immediately after its decision.  It is very unfortunate that so many Utah citizens have been put into this legal limbo.

Utah’s Office of Attorney General is carefully evaluating the legal status of the marriages that were performed since the District Court’s decision and will not rush to a decision that impacts Utah citizens so personally.

I believe this was a correct decision by the Supreme Court.  There is an order to the legal process and this decision is just another step in that process.  Both legal teams have much work to do before the case is presented before the 10th Circuit Court on an expedited basis.  I believe the stay indicates an interest by the Supreme Court in this case and as I have said before, pursuing the legal process to get a final answer from the highest court benefits all citizens of Utah.

For now, the marriages of the couples who wed before today’s stay should remain valid, although if Utah were to win its appeal at the circuit court or the Supreme Court, the validity of those marriages would be in question.  There will likely be further instruction from the state as to whether it will continue to recognize the couples’ marriages as the appeal goes forward.

42 Comments

  • 1. Bruno71  |  January 6, 2014 at 11:41 am

    He's new and everything, but the people of Utah should be very disappointed that he's not "rushing" into this. Whether courts in the future agree with the AG or not, he should've had a definitive directive on this by now.

  • 2. BillieBobRob  |  January 6, 2014 at 11:47 am

    Right-wing "family values" — let's annul legal marriages, since of course right-wingers divorce their wives with some regularity and thereby prove just how much they really "value" the "sanctity of marriage"… and call it "family values" when they do. Ronald Reagan… Newt Gingrich… the louder the right-wing voice, the more hypocritical it seems to be.

  • 3. Jesse  |  January 6, 2014 at 12:01 pm

    I don't see why he's having trouble defining a clear precedent for this.

    The June 2008 California Supreme Court invalidation of Prop 22 to the installation of Prop 8 in November left me (and around 18k others) knowing that our marriages licenses were within the letter of the law and that no one could take that away from us. Technically, the licenses issues within that time period should be valid. He just doesn't want to say "those same sex marriages don't count" because, it flies at the face of the state that they are explicitly treating a specific subset of their citizens unequal.

  • 4. Rose  |  January 6, 2014 at 12:03 pm

    Just because SCOTUS issued a Stay DOESN'T mean they have an interest in this case and I believe that if and when it is appealed to them, especially if the State should lose in the 10th, there is a likelihood that SCOTUS may pass on the appeal!!!

    As for the legal marriages already performed and registered……..there is NO legal ground work for the State NOT to remain recognizing them as valid and legal as it was the State who failed to ask for a Stay regardless of the outcome from the District Judge!!!

  • 5. Bruno71  |  January 6, 2014 at 12:34 pm

    The problem is that Utah can argue that licenses issued in the last 2 weeks weren't validly obtained because Shelby erred by not issuing a stay. In California, even Ken Starr believed our 18k marriages were validly obtained, though he suggested California should cease to recognize them after prop 8.

  • 6. Yellow Bellied  |  January 6, 2014 at 12:36 pm

    Marriages in Multnomah County in 2004 were later voided, so a similar situation has happened before.

  • 7. Rose  |  January 6, 2014 at 12:45 pm

    Yes, but if you remember correctly, Kenneth Starr still stated to the CSSC Justices that the State should NOT be forced to recognize our legal marriages……essentially stating that they should not be recognized NOT invalidated…….to which the Justices laughed at him!!!!

    I believe if the state tries this with the marriages in Utah, it WON'T go well for them……it was the State's fault for NOT asking for a Stay regardless of the outcome!!!

  • 8. Rose  |  January 6, 2014 at 12:47 pm

    I doubt the situation was similar…….my guess is a rouge Clerk granted marriage license exceeding his authority like Mayor Newsome did in 2004 here in California!!!

  • 9. Eric  |  January 6, 2014 at 12:48 pm

    Prop 8 was different, its stated purpose on the ballot was, "[e]liminates Rights of Same-Sex Couples to Marry." It didn't address existing marriages by same-sex couples.

  • 10. Dr. Z  |  January 6, 2014 at 5:02 pm

    They're going to have a tough time arguing that Shelby erred in not issuing a stay, when the state didn't have a stay motion ready. Also, the 10th Circuit didn't issue one either. If Utah pretends these marriages didn't happen then the plainiffs will likely file another motion that will be headed for SCOTUS asking for clarification.

  • 11. Dr. Z  |  January 6, 2014 at 5:05 pm

    That's how the Oregon SC called it. The Multnomah Co Commissioners voted to start issuing licenses, but the Oregon SC said that decision had to be make at a statewide level. I don't think that would quite be applicable here.

  • 12. Brent W.  |  January 6, 2014 at 6:01 pm

    I disagree about SCOTUS taking a pass. it only takes 4 Justices to get cert on a case. The 4 conservatives would likely vote to hear ANY appellate decision that invalidated a state ban on SSM. They know that the only shot they have of getting Kennedy's vote is sooner than later.

  • 13. StraightDave  |  January 6, 2014 at 6:39 pm

    They might not be counting on Kennedy, ever, and may prefer not to even have that vote.
    A not-insane strategy for the conservatives would be to stall until a post-Obama liberal retirement bails them out. But I don't see them being able to duck it for 3 more years- there's just too many cases out there..

  • 14. Mike in Baltimore  |  January 6, 2014 at 7:19 pm

    According to Wikipedia:
    "In the United States, the Congress is prohibited from passing ex post facto laws by clause 3 of Article I, Section 9 of the United States Constitution. The states are prohibited from passing ex post facto laws by clause 1 of Article I, Section 10."
    (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ex_post_facto_law , then skip to the section on 'United States')

    Since the state issued marriage license applications that were 'completed' by the couples being married, it would be very easy to argue that the state was voiding the marriages in an ex post facto manner, as they were valid at the time the license application was requested, issued and 'completed'.

  • 15. Steve  |  January 6, 2014 at 7:24 pm

    They love marriage so much that they get married many times.

  • 16. grod  |  January 6, 2014 at 7:45 pm

    Dr. Z I was surprised that this am the State's rebuttal was as strong as stated. It took on James Magleby's assertions head on, which for Magleby could not get much better. He and his team now have all the state's main arguments including those buttressed against their own assertions. What better way from their legal minds to prepare themselves against the State's new legal team.

  • 17. Michael  |  January 6, 2014 at 7:50 pm

    Hey, I resemble that remark! I was a Rouge Clerk once; I wore blush to work every day! (Couldn't resist.)

  • 18. Dr. Z  |  January 6, 2014 at 8:01 pm

    In this best of all possible worlds. (Candide)

  • 19. Stefan  |  January 6, 2014 at 9:03 pm

    I'm predicting the nationwide ruling will come either next year or in 2016.

  • 20. bythesea  |  January 6, 2014 at 9:23 pm

    Hmm…If events force a decision, but if SCOTUS really want to let it "percolate" it's hard to say when it will happen (though certainly well before decades end imo).

  • 21. Straight Ally #3008  |  January 6, 2014 at 10:01 pm

    This nonsense will be (even more) embarrassing in a decade when folks look back at our history.

  • 22. Drpatrick1  |  January 6, 2014 at 10:07 pm

    I disagree. In CA, there was no legal dispute whether the marriages were legally granted. I believe we will win in the 10th Circuit, and now with the stay, I am uncertain about whether SCOTUS will grant cert, and what the outcome would be if they did. However, if we ultimately lose this, there is very strong reason to believe the courts will rule that as the district court ruling was overturned, and thus vacated, there was never legal authority in UT to grant licenses in the first place, and thus the marriages are invalidated. This is the same scenario as in CA a la 2004 when then Mayor Newsome authorized the issuance of licenses, which the CA Supreme Court later ruled he did not have the authority to issue, and thus invalidated the marriages.

    Anyone who states with certainty that these marriages have no chance of being invalidated is mistaken. No one knows today exactly what will happen.

  • 23. StraightDave  |  January 7, 2014 at 12:23 am

    That reminds me of one of my all-time favorite parodies, the spoof "Sarah Palin" book, Going Rouge. (vs her own real Going Rogue) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Going_Rouge:_Sarah_P

  • 24. klien  |  January 7, 2014 at 12:42 am

    What state do you all think that nation wide decision will come from and if you HAD to predict, when would it be?

  • 25. Dr. Z  |  January 7, 2014 at 3:49 am

    Hopefully Virginia.

  • 26. G. Arthur Graham  |  January 7, 2014 at 6:00 am

    Completely off-topic, unproductive, and frankly as offensive as any hate speech.
    In overturning DOMA and rejecting the Prop 8 appeal challenge, the SC clearly stated it was the prerogative of the States to regulate marriage.
    The legal issue here is a lower Court ruling in diametric opposition to the SC ruling- a Fed judge interfering with a State constitutional amendment.
    If the Fed is not to interfere with the right of the individual as determined by the States, as ruledin the two aforementioned cases, then it follows precedent that likewise a lower court cannot interfere with a State's constitutional amendment.

  • 27. exNoCali  |  January 7, 2014 at 7:23 am

    Agreed! There is something very historically sweet and lyrical if we had our own ME opinion almost 50 years after Loving.

  • 28. Zack12  |  January 7, 2014 at 7:30 am

    Uh no they dismissed the Prop 8 case due to lack of standing. Yes they punted but that is NOT the same thing as saying the states have the right to decide,otherwise they would have upheld Prop 8.
    Section 3 of DOMA was the only thing before them,NOT section 2.
    You'll also forgetting this part of the ruling,if you're going to single out a group of people and deny them something,you better have a darn good reason for it.
    And religious beliefs ain't enough.

  • 29. Steve  |  January 7, 2014 at 7:57 am

    And states also had the right to keep slaves. You lost the Civil War. Get over it already.

    States can regulate marriage, yes. But not while violating the federal Constitution. Contrary to what the states would like it to be, the US is still one country. Not a lose collection of independent polities.

  • 30. Carol  |  January 7, 2014 at 10:09 am

    "Regulating marriage" means regulating such matters as the age of consent, the degree of consanguinity allowed between spouses, the number of spouses one can have at the same time, the obligations that spouses owe to each other and to children of the marriage, conditions for divorce, etc. "Regulating marriage" does not include denying a certain class of people the fundamental right to marry.

    You probably should read the Windsor and Perry decisions for yourself.

  • 31. sfbob  |  January 7, 2014 at 10:22 am

    He may want to start by reading Loving vs Virginia.

  • 32. Eric  |  January 7, 2014 at 10:25 am

    The California constitution also has a few things to say about the retroactivity of initiatives.

  • 33. rob  |  January 7, 2014 at 10:57 am

    It is doubtful to be Virginia (unless the Fed District Courts rule in favor of the anti's) since all key Virginia offices are held by Democrats. No one will have standing to bring this to the US Supreme Court if either Fed District Courts (there are two cases pending) invalidate the state prohibition on marriage. It will be similar to CA.

  • 34. Bruno71  |  January 7, 2014 at 11:47 am

    I agree, but it's at least some sort of argument to make; whereas in California there was no question that same-sex marriage was legal between May and November 2008.

    They could also claim that the 10th Circuit should've issued their own stay. And the fact that SCOTUS actually did put a stay on matters yesterday suggests to me that that's the way they'd like it in the future…stays should be "automatic" when it comes to marriages after anti-gay marriage bans are struck down. I don't like it, but it's the message I'm getting from them. I doubt they'll invalidate the marriages, though, but the bigots do have a stronger argument than in California in '08.

  • 35. Bruno71  |  January 7, 2014 at 11:53 am

    Yeah, we have to be realistic about this. Although I do think the Utah marriages are on stronger legal ground than the 2004 California marriages, because there should be no question that a US District Court has the power to reverse a Utah constitutional amendment, and those marriages were subsequently entered into under legal auspices. It'll really have to be shown that some great error or abuse of power existed emanating from both Shelby and the 10th Circuit justices, I think, even if Shelby's ruling is ultimately overturned. But it's no doubt uncharted territory here and this is all guesswork on everybody's part.

  • 36. Bruno71  |  January 7, 2014 at 11:55 am

    Yep. I think the conservative justices won't touch this or any other case with a 10-foot pole for as long as possible, or until the balance on the bench swings in their favor.

  • 37. fiona64  |  January 7, 2014 at 1:29 pm

    I think the AG for the Pretty Hate State needs to look up why ex post facto laws are not permitted …

  • 38. fiona64  |  January 7, 2014 at 1:31 pm

    Sweetie, it doesn't matter what kind of unconstitutional laws people vote into their states; once there is a Federal question, the law will be reviewed against the US Constitution, which *trumps* the states. You might want to revisit Civics 101.

  • 39. StraightDave  |  January 7, 2014 at 1:54 pm

    First off, it would likely need to be from a Circuit that rules against equality. SCOTUS will let positive rulings slide as long as they're reasonable, with no standing issues. That limits it to 5th, 11th, 8th, maybe 6th. Then it needs a state to fight it hard. TX and MI seem to be leading candidates. The percolation could possibly cease in 2015, but I expect SCOTUS to find a way to drag it out to June 2016 and then fly the coup as usual.

  • 40. grod  |  January 8, 2014 at 6:41 am

    Arthur: Citizens have unalienable individual rights. Fundamental rights can not be yuck with by any government or the people's majority. Each person's right to marry and to mobility/residency rights have been determined to be aspects of life, liberty and happiness rights. The right to remain married and to have one's valid marriage recognized has generally been acknowledged as an attribute of that right. It's unquestionably so for straights. I'm suggesting that you read Ohio's Judge T. Black's recent ruling to remind you as it did me of unalienable rights. http://www.gbfirm.com/litigation/documents/61_65-… . After reading it, you might change your mind on the prerogatives of the 'state' vs each citizen's right to have their fundamental rights recognized and treated equally. Indeed, equality is indeed on trial in the USA. G

  • 41. grod  |  January 8, 2014 at 6:58 am

    Bruno I compare a stay is a "freeze". Most of us in North America understand today what that is. Circumstances remain as is. The Supremes issued a temporary freeze. While we would not want the freeze hitting many of us until the 10th Circuit Appeals Court renders its decision, no thaw can be expect in Utah on issuing marriage licences. On clerk said that those who have licenses and were married before the deep freeze have 30 days to have their marriage registered.

  • 42. Zack12  |  January 8, 2014 at 7:35 am

    Let's be honest as well,as Rachel Maddow pointed out on her show,the Utah AG botched this from the start and forgot to ask for a stay,something a first year law school student learns.
    I am disspointed in the stay but not shocked either.

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