The State of Marriage in Utah

According to this New York Times article, Utah attorney general Sean D. Reyes and his staff have “been poring over Utah’s laws and other legal cases to determine how to treat” the same-sex couples who entered into supposed marriages between the time that federal district judge Robert J. Shelby issued his judgment invalidating Utah’s marriage laws and the Supreme Court’s January 6 order blocking Judge Shelby’s injunction from continuing in effect.

It’s unfortunate for those involved that Judge Shelby’s wildly irresponsible failure to stay his ruling in the first place created this situation. But those who entered into supposed marriages had ample reason to know that they were doing so under a cloud of uncertainty.

In any event, the status of those supposed marriages under Utah law is easy to resolve: The Utah constitution provides that “Marriage consists only of the legal union between a man and a woman” and that “No other domestic union … may be recognized as a marriage.” Utah statutory law further provides that supposed marriages “between persons of the same sex” are “prohibited and declared void” and that it is state policy “to recognize as marriage only the legal union of a man and a woman.” These provisions, which Judge Shelby temporarily blocked from operating, are now fully back in effect. By their plain language, they require that state officials not give any effect or recognition to the supposed marriages that took place during that temporary blockage.

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