WASHINGTON — The federal government will recognize the same-sex marriages that were performed in Utah during a brief window, despite the state government’s decision not to do the same, Attorney General Eric Holder announced Friday.

A federal judge in Utah struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriages on Dec. 20, and thousands of couples rushed to get their marriage licenses. But the state of Utah is appealing the decision, and the Supreme Court earlier this week put the ruling on hold until the appeals court has ruled.

The Supreme Court’s decision halted the state from performing any additional same-sex unions, but it didn’t address the status of those same-sex marriages performed in the interim period. Holder’s announcement Friday clarified that those couples will, for now, be afforded the federal benefits married couples receive.

DENVER — Judges on a federal appeals court panel appeared sharply divided Thursday in their questions to attorneys at a hearing over whether to uphold a lower court’s ruling that struck down Utah’s gay marriage ban.

One of the three judges, Carlos F. Lucero, compared the state’s argument that the ban should stand to the U.S. Supreme Court’s infamous Dred Scott decision that denied citizenship and constitutional protections to blacks before the Civil War.

“To argue that public policy can trump a declared constitutional right would be a remarkable proposition,” Lucero said.

But Judge Paul J. Kelly Jr. suggested Utah does have the right to reaffirm what has been a centuries-long tradition of heterosexual marriage.

“You are just taking the position they are wrong on this. …. We’ll just ignore what the people have decided and the Legislature has done,” Kelly said.

The swing vote in the case appeared to be Judge Jerome A. Holmes, who had pointed questions for both sides. He at one point compared Utah’s same-sex marriage ban to Virginia’s ban on interracial marriages that was struck down by the Supreme Court in 1967.

But in addressing the plaintiffs’ attorneys, Holmes said gay marriage is a new and novel concept. He challenged them to explain why the state’s voters should be prevented from defining marriage the way they want.

The hearing comes after a remarkable winning streak for gay marriage supporters, who in the past nine months persuaded federal judges to strike down eight states’ bans on gay marriage or on recognizing gay marriages from elsewhere.

Those rulings, including the Utah one under discussion Thursday and a similar one in Oklahoma that will be heard before the same panel next week, came after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down theDefense of Marriage Act last summer. The high court found that the law violated gay couples’ due process rights by preventing the federal government from recognizing their marriages.

Lucero asked attorneys how Utah’s ban would affect children of gay couples, while Holmes questioned why it would be acceptable to discriminate against same-sex couples if marriage is considered a fundamental right.

“What does it matter who is claiming the right? I mean, it’s a fundamental right,” Holmes said.

Utah’s lawyer, Gene Schaerr, said the state has the authority to define marriage in a traditional way even though other states have defined it differently.

Utah’s attorneys also said that if the state had to recognize gay marriage, the next step would be having to recognize polygamy.

The plaintiffs’ lawyers argued that Utah’s gay-marriage ban clearly singled out gays for unequal treatment, which is forbidden by the Constitution.

After the hearing, Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes declined to go into detail about the arguments made, but he did address the child-rearing issue: “There is no intent on our part to hurt or harm children.”

More than 1,000 gay couples got married in Utah after the December ruling that struck down that state’s 2004 voter-approved gay marriage ban. The weddings ended only when the Supreme Court stayed the trial court’s ruling pending the appeal to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.

The three-judge panel is not expected to rule for several months. The losing party can appeal that decision to the full 10th Circuit or directly to the Supreme Court. Though Utah’s case is the furthest along, similar gay marriages cases also are working their way through at least four other federal appeals circuits. It is unclear which would reach the high court first.

The same three judges are scheduled to hear Oklahoma’s appeal on April 17.

Holmes was appointed by President George W. Bush. He initially voted against staying the trial court’s ruling, which allowed more than 1,000 gay couples to wed in Utah in December before the Supreme Court stepped in and stayed the initial ruling.

Lucero was appointed by President Bill Clinton, and Kelly was appointed by President George H.W. Bush.

Developing story, check back for updates.

h/t: Nicholas Riccardi at LGBTQNation

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A federal judge has struck down Utah’s same-sex marriage ban, saying it is unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby issued a 53-page ruling Friday saying Utah’s law passed by voters in 2004 violates gay and lesbian couples’ rights to due process and equal protection under the 14th Amendment.

Shelby says the state failed to show that allowing same-sex marriages would affect opposite-sex marriages in any way, and the state’s unsupported fears and speculations are insufficient to justify deny allowing same-sex marriages.

Attorneys for the state argued that Utah’s law promotes the state’s interest in “responsible procreation” and the “optimal mode of child-rearing.”

The lawsuit was brought by three gay and lesbian couples in Utah.

Many similar court challenges are pending in other states, but Utah’s has been closely watched because of the state’s history of staunch opposition to gay marriage as the home of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Utah becomes the 18th state + DC to have marriage equality.

h/t: Huffington Post

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) on Tuesday told state agencies that the state recognition of same-sex marriage is “on hold” until a final Supreme Court ruling is issued.

"Based on counsel from the Attorney General’s Office regarding the Supreme Court decision, state recognition of same-sex marital status is ON HOLD until further notice," Herbert’s Chief of Staff Derek Miller wrote in a memo sent to reporters. “It is important to understand that those laws include not only a prohibition of performing same-sex marriages but also recognizing same-sex marriages.”

In the memo Miller states that that the state’s decision is not a stance against same-sex marriage, but guidance on how to follow state law.

"Please understand this position is not intended to comment on the legal status of those same-sex marriages – that is for the courts to decide," he wrote. "The intent of this communication is to direct state agency compliance with current laws that prohibit the state from recognizing same-sex marriages."

The marriage process for same-sex couples will freeze until a final court decision.

"Wherever individuals are in the process of availing themselves of state services related to same-sex marital status, that process is on hold and will stay exactly in that position until a final court decision is issued," the memo reads. "For example, if a same-sex married couple previously changed their names on new drivers licenses, those licenses should not be revoked. If a same-sex couple seeks to change their names on drivers licenses now, the law does not allow the state agency to recognize the marriage therefore the new drivers licenses cannot be issued."

More than 1,300 gay couples were married in Utah before the Supreme Court issued the stay.

[…]

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes on Wednesday clarified how the state is handling same-sex marriage now that the stay has been issued. He said in a statement that the validity of marriage licenses already issued will be determined in the courts, and that in the meantime the state cannot recognize marital benefits for those already issued licenses.

"We are unable to reach a legal conclusion as to the ultimate validity of marriage between persons of the same sex who completed their marriage ceremony in Utah between Dec 20, 2013 and Jan. 6, 2014. That question remains unanswered and the answer will depend on the result of the appeal process," Reyes said. "The State can neither recognize nor confer new marital benefits."

The attorney general has established a review team and said that he will work with agencies as they determine specific policies.

h/t: TPM

WASHINGTON — A federal appeals court ruled Wednesday that Utah’s ban on same-sex couples’ marriages is unconstitutional, making it the first appellate ruling on the issue since last June’s Supreme Court ruling striking down part of the Defense of Marriage Act.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit upheld the December 2013 federal trial court ruling that the ban is unconstitutional in a 2-1 decision written by Judge Carlos Lucero.

Judge Paul Kelly wrote a 21-page dissent, countering Lucero’s 65-page majority opinion. Judge Jermoe Holmes joined the majority opinion.

Lucero wrote:

ca10.uscourts.gov

Importantly. however, he also concluded that because the Supreme Court stayed the trial court’s ruling in the Utah case pending the 10th Circuit appeal that it should stay its mandate of the appellate ruling “pending the disposition of any subsequently filed petition for writ of certiorari” to the Supreme Court.

The stay means same-sex couples’ marriages cannot continue at this time in Utah.

The 10th Circuit’s decision, which cites heavily from Justice Anthony Kennedy’s opinion in the DOMA case, United States v. Windsor, was issued one day before the one-year anniversary of the historic Supreme Court decision.

Read the 10th Circuit opinion:

h/t: Chris Geidner at BuzzFeed

HIGHLAND, Utah – Billed as a call for an uprising, opponents of same-sex marriage gathered for a meeting in Highland on Saturday.

Former Graham County, Ariz., Sheriff Richard Mack spoke about issues concerning the U.S. Constitution, including same-sex marriage.

Mack says that since it appears that Herbert and other elected leaders have failed at their jobs, it’s up to law enforcement and everyday citizens to deny same-sex marriage.

“The people of Utah have rights, too, not just the homosexuals. The homosexuals are shoving their agenda down our throats,” Mack said.

Cherilyn Eager, who helped organize the event, says that it’s time for the citizens of Utah to speak up for their rights.

“We need people to stand up and speak out. We need to get noisy. We need some outrage,” Eager said. ”It is about the sheriffs now coming out to protect the people.”

Mack says that the federal government’s ruling doesn’t overrule Utah’s laws.

“That’s a lie. That’s an absolute lie. We have a right to raise our kids without homosexuals being part of the Boy Scouts, the schools and teachers and doing everything. They can be all that, but don’t shove your agenda down my kid’s throat. We have a right to raise our kids how we want not how you want,” Mack said.

Mack and Eager urge citizens to call upon their local leaders because change will come from the bottom-up.

“The way you take back freedom in America is one county at a time. The sheriffs need to defend the county clerks in saying, ‘No, we’re not going to issue marriage licenses to homosexuals,’” Mack said.

H/T: Fox13now.com

(CNN) — Utah officials will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court a lower-court ruling allowing same-sex marriage in the state, the state attorney general’s office said Thursday.

Newly appointed Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes will seek a stay of the federal judge’s ruling after state officials consult first with outside attorneys over the next few days.

"It is the intent of the Attorney General’s Office to file with the Supreme Court as soon as possible," the attorney general’s office said in a statement.

The emergency appeal, when filed, would go to Justice Sonia Sotomayor because she has jurisdiction over appeals from Utah and nearby states. She could rule on the state’s application herself or ask the entire nine-member court to weigh in.

The Utah announcement comes two days after state officials lost their case in a federal appeals court, which said the state’s request for a stay wasn’t warranted and ordered the appeal process be expedited.

The appeals court’s ruling allows same-sex marriages to continue in Utah while appeals continue.

Last week, U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby struck down Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage, saying the law “conflicts with the United States Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection and due process under the law.”

Utah voters approved a law banning same-sex marriage in 2004.

Judge Shelby’s ruling drew national attention partly because Utah is viewed as among the more conservative states and because the U.S. Supreme Court just ruled this summer on same-sex marriage.

In June, the nation’s highest court cleared the way for same-sex marriages in California to resume after it ruled private parties did not have “standing” to defend California’s voter-approved ballot measure barring gay and lesbian couples from state-sanctioned wedlock.

The U.S. Supreme Court also rejected parts of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in a 5-4 decision, dismissing an appeal over same-sex marriage on jurisdictional grounds and ruling same-sex spouses legally married in a state may receive federal benefits. 

[…]

Same-sex marriage is banned by constitutional amendment or state law in: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

It is legal in 17 other U.S states and the District of Columbia: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

H/T: CNN.com

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