In Utah, Gay Marriage Facing More Legal Challenges

By Brett Snider, Esq. on December 24, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

What's going on with Utah and same-sex marriage? It's been a tumultuous couple of days since a federal judge ruled that Utah's anti-gay marriage laws were unconstitutional, but many Utah gay couples are still being blocked from legal marriage.

In Utah County, officials on Monday turned away same-sex couples attempting to get marriage licenses, citing the "need for legal clarification from the county attorney," reports The Salt Lake Tribune.

With some counties refusing to issue licenses, what legal challenges lie ahead for same-sex marriage in Utah?

5 Counties Refusing to Issue Marriage Licenses

After U.S. District Court Judge Robert Shelby ruled Friday that Utah's gay marriage prohibition was unenforceable, several counties -- including Salt Lake County, the state's most populous -- began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

However, as of Monday five counties were reportedly refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, with some county clerks' offices refusing to open at all. One of these five, Cache County, issued a press release explaining that their Clerk's Office would be closed until further notice to "sort out the legal issues and confusion created in the wake of Judge Shelby's opinion," reports Salt Lake City's KUTV.

Box Elder, Cache, Carbon, Sanpete, and Utah counties have been identified as counties which are currently denying marriage licenses to gay couples, reports Buzzfeed.

Unlike when a federal judge struck down gay marriage in California in 2010, as of Monday, there is no "stay" in place preventing gay marriage from being legal. Judge Shelby declined to block his own ruling while the matter is appealed, opining that state officials had "not met the legal standards" for a stay, reports Reuters.

Until the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals acts in any way to overturn or stay Judge Shelby's ruling, gay marriage is ostensibly legal in all of Utah. Some viral Twitter posts suggest that some Utah County residents plan to sue for being refused marriage licenses under federal civil rights laws.

The 10th Circuit has already denied two emergency motions by the state of Utah to stay Judge Shelby's ruling, reports Salt Lake City's KSTU-TV. Attorneys for the state are working on an appeal.

Despite the challenges, for now, gay marriage is legal in Utah.

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