What is the status of gay marriages performed in Utah before the stay?

January 6th, 2014

Are those marriages valid? Would the couples be able to file a joint federal tax return, or avail themselves of federal employment benefits? Would another state have to recognize that marriage? Would another state be able to grant the couple a divorce? Could one of the partners marry someone else, and not be charged with bigamy?

And if the Court finds that the District Court erred, is there a California-esque case that denying those who were granted interim marriages would be unconstitutional?

Oh the questions.

Update: Lyle has this report. Apparently, some who obtained marriage licenses were never actually married. Are those licenses valid now for an officiant to use?

State officials said on Monday that they are evaluating the legal fate of Utah same-sex couples who already have been married.  A total of 950 marriage licenses have been issued in the state to gay and lesbian couples, but it is unknown how many of them actually got married before the Supreme Court acted on Monday morning.

Update 2: More from WSJ Law Blog:

In a statement issued Monday, the Utah attorney general’s office said it’s “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.”

When similar situations have come up in other states, gay couples have remained legally married even when other gay couples were prevented from joining them. The two best-known examples are cases in New Mexico and California.

In 2004, dozens of gay and lesbian got married in New Mexico’s Sandoval County in a single day. The county clerk at the time, Victoria Dunlap, quickly got orders from the state’s then-attorney general to stop issuing licenses. The courts never got around to deciding whether the marriages were valid, so the couples remained legally married. At least one pair got divorced.

About 18,000 gay couples in California got married in the months in 2008 between the time when the state’s highest court allowed gay marriage and when voters passed Proposition 8 banning gay marriage in the state.

In 2009, the California Supreme Court upheld Prop. 8, but preserved the thousands of marriages that were recognized before the ballot proposition was passed. Ultimately, federal courts would later rule Prop. 8 unconstitutional, making same-sex marriage in California legal.