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Utah attorney general’s office advises clerks to issue marriage certificate to same-sex couples if marriage was solemnized prior to stay

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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.

Attorney General
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

Help us travel to Denver this spring to cover oral arguments in the Utah marriage equality case. You won’t regret it, and you can help EqualityOnTrial be a part of history in the making. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to EqualityOnTrial in the new year to help us continue this mission–any amount helps!


  • 1. KarlS  |  January 9, 2014 at 3:06 pm

    What a tangled web they wove. It's so absurd it would actually be funny if it were not so pathetic.
    The thing I just can't figure out is why the hell the Mor(m)ons (or anybody else) even care who someone they don't even know wants to marry. It boggles the mind.

  • 2. Scottie Thomaston  |  January 9, 2014 at 3:10 pm

    Right? I'm just thinking, could this GET anymore confusing? It's at the point where writing about it requires 20 word titles.

  • 3. Rob in CA  |  January 9, 2014 at 5:44 pm

    How about when the first couple married during this window seeks a divorce or annulment. Let's hope that doesn't happen but it would be interesting to see what the state might do.

  • 4. Gregory in SLC  |  January 9, 2014 at 11:23 pm

    expensive and confusing. Simple fix=people getting married, end of story.

  • 5. grod  |  January 10, 2014 at 8:25 am

    Morning Gregory. In Canada, the simple fix took two years, and indeed it was ‘end of story’. Done via court cases in ten jurisdictions and one piece of legislation that covered those jurisdictions where the courts had yet to rule. Obviously, American citizens prefer complexity not your 'simple fix'. On the ‘Right to Remain Marriage and Recognized’, your state is doing a wonderful job of sharpening the subject – a subject that straights take for granted as a given throughout the USA and here. Although an aspect of Shelby's case is recognition of out-of-staters, on Appeal to the 10th Circuit, can James Magleby introduce State's on again/off again recognition of “in-state” valid marriages? Graeme

  • 6. Richard Weatherwax  |  January 10, 2014 at 10:22 am

    I agree that once a Supreme Court decision is made to recognize same-sex marriages, they public will accept it as they do in every state which now has marriage equality.

  • 7. Anthony  |  January 10, 2014 at 11:21 am

    I'm sure if there are riots in Mississippi and Alabama, Obama can send in federal troops. It will be the 1960s all over again.

  • 8. Bob  |  January 10, 2014 at 4:08 pm

    Hi Gregory,,,, Bob from Canada here,,,,,, I've been wondering if you got married???
    thinking of you ,,,,, cheers

  • 9. Gregory in SLC  |  January 15, 2014 at 5:12 pm

    Hi Bob! Great to hear from you! Please contact me: [email protected]

  • 10. TPAKyle  |  January 9, 2014 at 3:17 pm

    "…why the hell the Mor(m)ons (or anybody else) even care…"

    Mormons baptize dead people, sometimes surreptitiously, even without approval of the dead person's family.

    Case closed.

  • 11. Keith  |  January 9, 2014 at 4:01 pm

    I’ve never fully understood why LDS baptized the dead people who were never of that faith.

    “Let's not forget Adolph Hitler (German dictator), who was baptized and endowed by proxy on December 10, 1993 and sealed to his parents (Alois Hitler and Klara Poelzl) on March 12, 1994; all of which took place in the London LDS temple.” For a list of other prominent people who have been baptized by proxy in an LDS temple go to

  • 12. RAJ  |  January 9, 2014 at 4:13 pm

    "I’ve never fully understood why LDS baptized the dead people who were never of that faith."

    I don't have the energy or interest to explain it — I can tell you as a 14-year-old, I was a proxy (like a number of others around my age) and was baptized approximately 20 times in the Los Angeles Temple for 20 different deceased people. It was weird, but interesting.

    That was half a life time ago — I've since moved on and resigned my membership.

  • 13. Rick O.  |  January 10, 2014 at 7:29 am

    In practical terms, if you are creating a brand new religion of the golden arches, err tablets, isn't it reassuring to people they can get their ancestors in on the deal, and also to feel you are not the 1st whacko bird to believe this stuff? Instant history.

  • 14. Simon  |  January 10, 2014 at 6:46 am

    Totally off-topic, but the answer is an obscure bible verse – 1 Corinthians 15:29 (KJV) – "Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?" No one really knows what "baptized for the dead" means; Christians have always just ignored that bit. Then the LDS come along and say "We know what it means", and introduce this practice on the basis of that single verse. Other Christians go on ignoring it. I think the real point of it, is so the LDS church can say "We know the meaning of the obscure Bible verses, because unlike other churches, we have a direct line to God"

  • 15. Guest  |  January 9, 2014 at 4:11 pm

    Bigotry is a commodity. Mormonism, Christian mega franchise, Catholic Inc., The Republican Party, cannot exist without it. These anti-gay institutions have raised countless dollars facilitating sexism and homophobia, and in this instance discrimination. That is why they care about who marries who, and how the power of law can either advance their product or render it empty.

  • 16. Guest  |  January 9, 2014 at 5:12 pm

    A perfect example of the commodification of Christian bigotry is on full display in the following article by the Brian Brown, adding insult to injury lambasts the supporters of gay marriage. “… slows the stampede of rabid same-sex marriage bullies who are willing to trample over the rights of everyone else in order to get their way. …" It is necessary for Brian Brown to compare us to a herd of stampeding animals because he speaks directly to the hate that is at the core of Christianity. This is significant because the next step is getting the dumb bigots to open up their wallets to support their Christian crusade against our rights. It's their unifying purpose. The Mormon industry, Christian mega franchise, and Catholic inc. are moments behind this pathetic turd. Conversely, when we're protected under the law from their hate, they can't sell it, and therefore no income, no religion. The same applies to their opposition to abortion.

  • 17. Richard Weatherwax  |  January 9, 2014 at 4:33 pm

    If they issue the marriage certificate, isn't that an act of recognition?

    I would like to know just what the wording on a Utah marriage certificate. That would help explain if the marriage is being recognized or not.

  • 18. Dr. Z  |  January 9, 2014 at 5:47 pm

    "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."

    That's the money quote. Once the state has recognized the marriages it's going to have an insurmountable legal hurdle to withdraw that recognition later, no matter how the courts rule. The actions they would take to withdraw recognition are targeted at a particular class of people, and equal protection and due process forbids that.

  • 19. davep  |  January 9, 2014 at 7:07 pm


  • 20. grod  |  January 9, 2014 at 8:00 pm

    Z. The right to remain married and to have a valid marriage recognized is core to Ohio's Judge's T. Black's December ruling – now under appeal. An attribute of the right to marry, assumed in every state for straight persons. But the right to marry and to resided where one chooses – mobility rights – are viewed as aspects of the fundamental rights of life, liberty and happiness, rights held by citizens that can not be yuck with by government or the people's majority.

  • 21. grod  |  January 10, 2014 at 6:42 am

    Check Out Exhibit A Oregon's Deputy AG opinion on why [out-of-state] valid marriage must be recognized.… pg. 9-15

  • 22. karen in kalifornia  |  January 9, 2014 at 5:14 pm

    AG offices wants to appear to be playing by the rules when really they are making them up as they go along.

  • 23. grod  |  January 13, 2014 at 8:41 pm

    NYT Editorial describes the state of Utah's submission as presenting several shifting arguments.…?

  • 24. StraightDave  |  January 13, 2014 at 9:13 pm

    I wonder what their next attorney-of-the-day will come up with, since none of their old arguments got much traction. They clearly don't recognize there are no good arguments.
    BTW- Isn't Tues the latest deadline for selecting their 10th Circuit cannon fodder?

  • 25. Dr. Z  |  January 9, 2014 at 7:40 pm

    Just go read it. You'll be glad you did.

  • 26. davep  |  January 9, 2014 at 9:50 pm

    That was brilliant. My favorite phrase – "activist mail carrier" : )

  • 27. SoCal_Dave  |  January 9, 2014 at 11:43 pm

    I AM glad I read it – excellent.

  • 28. ebohlman  |  January 9, 2014 at 11:35 pm

    Rube Goldberg died way too young.

  • 29. Attorney Search Site ยป U&hellip  |  January 10, 2014 at 3:08 pm

    […] General Reyes directs counties to give certificates to married same …Deseret NewsUtah attorney general's office advises clerks to issue marriage certificate to …Equality on Trial (registration)HRC urges US AG to ensure validity of Utah same-sex marriagesSalt […]

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