Utah attorney general’s office advises clerks to issue marriage certificate to same-sex couples if marriage was solemnized prior to stay
January 9, 2014
A new memo from Utah’s attorney general directs Utah state officials to provide same-sex couples with marriage certificates if their marriages were solemnized before the Supreme Court issued its stay of the district court’s order requiring recognition of same-sex marriage under the federal Constitution.
The text of the memo reads:
To all County Attorneys and County Clerks in the State of Utah:
The Utah Office of the Attorney General has been asked by certain counties for legal clarification about whether or not to mail or otherwise provide marriage certificates to persons of the same sex whose marriage ceremonies took place between December 20, 2013 and January 6, 2014, prior to the issuance of the stay by the U.S. Supreme Court. We offer the following guidance:
Although the State of Utah cannot currently legally recognize marriages other than those between a man and a woman, marriages between persons of the same sex were recognized in the state of Utah between the dates of December 20, 2013 until the stay on January 6, 2014. Based on our analysis of Utah law, the marriages were recognized at the time the ceremony was completed.
While the validity of the marriages in question must ultimately be decided by the legal appeals process presently working its way through the courts, the act of completing and providing a marriage certificate for all couples whose marriage was performed prior to the morning of January 6, 2014, is administrative and consistent with Utah law. Therefore, it is recommended that county clerks provide marriage certificates to all persons whose marriages were solemnized during this period as an administrative function and not a legal function. This would allow, for instance, same-sex couples who solemnized their marriage prior to the stay to have proper documentation in states that recognize same-sex marriage.
Sean D. Reyes
What this means is that officials in the state of Utah will be mailing out marriage certificates to those couples whose marriages were legally performed, whereas they’d been refusing to issue those certificates before this notice. The process works like this: a couple gets a marriage license, then has a certain period of time under state law in which they have to find a person to perform the marriage. After that, the clerk’s office mails the new marriage certificate (usually the same form as the license, considered a “certificate” under the law after the marriage is performed) and the marriage is considered valid.
Utah is still not recognizing same-sex marriages, as they’d previously announced, leaving that decision ultimately up to the courts. Because of that, the marriage certificate received by the couple won’t be considered valid until a court says so. But as the memo points out, the certificates are used for other purposes: the example it uses is that, were the couple to move to a state that recognizes marriage equality, the certificate would be recognized by that state. The state hasn’t issued any guidance on what should happen to marriage licenses when the couple’s marriage wasn’t legally performed before the stay went into effect.
The ACLU of Utah is getting involved in the fight for recognition of existing legal marriages in the state, something that has not been decided by this memo or the previous one. EqualityOnTrial will have more on these developments soon.
Thanks to Kathleen Perrin for this filing
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