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ACLU of Utah confirms intent to file class-action lawsuit over same-sex marriages performed before stay

LGBT Legal Cases Marriage equality Marriage Equality Trials

At EqualityOnTrial, we’ve suggested previously that the ACLU of Utah would soon file a class-action lawsuit in the state in order to protect the legality of same-sex marriages legally performed before the Supreme Court issued its stay. The ACLU of Utah itself had solicited emails from same-sex couples whose marriages became legally in doubt after the stay. Now, there’s official confirmation that a new lawsuit will be filed, likely in “less than a week”:

“When we announced Jan. 9 that we were seeking plaintiffs, that really was the beginning stages of planning and thinking of a lawsuit and after January 9th we did hear from hundreds of people,” said John Mejia, the legal director of the ACLU of Utah.

Mejia said it’s not a matter of if, but when they file a suit. There’s also a question of what the plaintiffs should get.

“We may or may not ask for damages. From our perspective the most important relief we would get from this lawsuit is the immediate recognition of those marriages,” Mejia said.

The state has said previously that recognition of same-sex marriage is “on hold” pending the appeal of Kitchen v. Herbert to the Tenth Circuit. That case is on a fast-track, and briefing will be finished by February 25. As of this writing, the oral argument has not been scheduled, but seems likely to happen during the appeals court’s March sitting. But until that case reaches a final conclusion, existing marriages are not being recognized at all in the state and benefits are on hold. The state had said that it isn’t reaching a decision itself on whether existing marriages are valid, leaving that up to the legal system. The class-action lawsuit would address that question.

For more information on Kitchen v. Herbert from The Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse, click here.

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  • 1. Straight Ally #3008  |  January 16, 2014 at 8:20 am

    Thanks for keeping us posted!

    I have a question – which state litigation could we potentially hear from next? Bostic v. Rainey in Virginia (Olson & Boies case) is supposed to begin on January 30, DeBoer v. Snyder is going to be heard Feb 25 in Michigan, Whitehead v. Woolf (John E. Jones III's case) will be heard in Pennsylvania on June 9. Are there any decisions we're waiting for in the meantime a la Oklahoma, or have all the other cases not started yet?

  • 2. Pat  |  January 16, 2014 at 9:11 am

    Im wondering the same: it would be so great if the "Current cases" page would be refreshed to indicate clearly at which stage is each case (briefings, hearings, etc.) ideally with a timeline in a graphical format showing the main past and future dates.

  • 3. Vince  |  January 16, 2014 at 9:13 am

    Agreed! And what is the expected timeline for the Sandoval case in Nevada? It has been postposted so much that i lost track…

  • 4. Stefan  |  January 16, 2014 at 10:30 am

    Sandoval likely will be heard in March, roughly the same time as Ketchen.

  • 5. Richard Weatherwax  |  January 16, 2014 at 10:06 am

    It would be a full time job for a law student to keep up with all the current cases. There must be someplace where they are already doing this. If so, just link the "Current cases" page to where they keep up with these cases.

  • 6. grod  |  January 16, 2014 at 12:41 pm

    25 cases, 20 states, 15 have as an aspect the right to remain married and have valid marriages recognized:

  • 7. grod  |  January 16, 2014 at 2:02 pm

    Update: there are currently 43 gay marriage lawsuits active in courts, including 27 in the federal systems said Camilla Taylor, marriage project director at the national civil rights organization Lambda Legal. A new one is filed almost weekly, she said. One of the latest came from four couples in Arizona who filed a lawsuit Jan. 6 challenging the state's gay marriage ban.

  • 8. Colleen  |  January 16, 2014 at 10:41 am

    Hey, y'all, I bet it would help updates get made if that red donation thermometer were more full! Just sayin'!

  • 9. Jacob Combs  |  January 16, 2014 at 11:49 am

    We're actually updating the current cases page as I type this! Should be good to go in the next week or so. And Colleen's right–the fuller that thermometer gets, the more we'll be able to stay on top of everything that we'd like to be! 🙂

  • 10. Stefan  |  January 16, 2014 at 10:42 am

    Virginia will likely be next, as the other case in the state has already been heard. Virginia also will likely not have a stay of the ruling nor an appeal since it's expected that no statewide official will defend the ban.

  • 11. Mike in Baltimore  |  January 16, 2014 at 2:09 pm

    The major problem, as I see it, is that Virginia is divided between two districts, unlike Utah which has a single Federal District Court.

    The question is if a ruling is made in one district, would it apply only to that district, or would it be applied statewide, ala the Prop H8 ruling?

    Or would an appeal have to be denied on standing grounds for it to be applied statewide, again ala Prop H8?

  • 12. Richard Weatherwax  |  January 16, 2014 at 10:28 am

    Here is a video of Utah's annual "Undie Run" held last October. The purpose of the run has never been specified. For some it is gay marriage, but for most it is merely to have fun:

  • 13. Dr. Z  |  January 16, 2014 at 10:34 am

    Ohio AG Mike DeWine is appealing to the Sixth Circuit.

  • 14. sfbob  |  January 16, 2014 at 11:21 am

    Because clearly his office has nothing better to do with the state's resources than use them to harass people who are dead or grieving.

  • 15. Frisky1  |  January 16, 2014 at 11:51 am

    He has to stop gay marriage or a river full of chemicals will engulf Cincinnati. /snark

  • 16. Dr. Z  |  January 16, 2014 at 12:20 pm

    Is there any possibility that the original ruling could be broadened on appeal?

  • 17. sfbob  |  January 16, 2014 at 1:17 pm

    Tough to say. I'm not a lawyer and I also don't want to try and find the ruling to re-read it, but I seem to recall that the judge emphatically noted that his ruling applied specifically to death certificates while at the same time noting that his rationales could be used to apply more broadly. I don't know if the Circuit Court of Appeals would or even could broaden the scope of the original ruling. Someone who understands court procedures better than I do would probably be the best person to ask.

    From the Buzzfeed item quoted in the article here specifically about deWine's appeal:

    "Black’s ruling was limited to the narrow request made in the case, but his reasoning likely would be used by other couples seeking recognition of their marriages by the state. More broadly, Black suggested he would likely reach a similar ruling if asked whether Ohio’s constitutional amendment banning the state from granting such licenses is constitutional."

  • 18. Thomas Ranzenberger  |  January 16, 2014 at 1:35 pm

    Isn't he really doing us a favor? A favorable ruling in the 6th circuit would be binding on the rest of the circuit.

  • 19. grod  |  January 16, 2014 at 2:37 pm

    And Judge T Black's Dec 2013 ruling opens the door to the right to remain married and have valid marriages recognized.… He not only considers out-of-state marriages but in-state marriages.

  • 20. Zack12  |  January 16, 2014 at 10:51 am

    In the case of Bostic v. Rainey,it will be a no brainer.
    Every time Bob Marshall (the House Sponser of the ban) opens his mouth he makes it clear the animus he has towards gays and lesbians.
    His actions during the Tracy Thorne-Begland debactle only drive that point home further.
    So while the defenders of this ban can claim there is no animus,the main sponser of this bill makes that claim next to impossible.

  • 21. rob  |  January 16, 2014 at 11:08 am

    Well that, plus all of the other state prohibitions that disallow any private contracts between two non-related people of the same sex – gee, I wonder who they were singling out there. So for now e.g., POA's and Wills between same-sex couples are considered illegal in the State of Virginia. If that doesn't prove animus, I don't know what does.

  • 22. Colleen  |  January 16, 2014 at 12:19 pm

    Whoa, so I'm guessing from the wording that POAs and wills between unmarried, opposite-sex people ARE legal? Hokey smokes, that's some bald-faced BS!

  • 23. sfbob  |  January 16, 2014 at 1:20 pm

    When the state's amendment was passed I wondered how it could possibly stand up to court scrutiny. It appears to void all sorts of legal agreements for the sole reason that they are made by and between gay people when such agreements would otherwise be completely unremarkable. A simple application of Romer vs Evans ought to be able to dispatch that feature.

  • 24. Mike in Baltimore  |  January 17, 2014 at 12:37 pm

    Which brings up the question of how the state would determine who is homosexual and who is not. Some would be simple, but not all.

    As an example, how many law firms are organized under an LLP (which requires a contract of all members by and to each other) that have 3 or more 'partners', 'Jr. partners', 'associates', etc. If any two of the people who sign the agreement are homosexual, does that void the contract? Even if they are not involved with each other except as part of the LLP?

    And how does the state determine that the people actually are homosexual? Make them prove it in a public sex act? Wouldn't that go against the 'religion' of most of those supporting the amendment?

  • 25. Richard Weatherwax  |  January 17, 2014 at 1:24 pm

    It's easy to identify who the homosexuals are.

    You bring the suspected homosexuals before a congressional committee and ask them to give names. If they refuse to give names, they are cited with contempt of Congress. You publish the names in a book.

    This method worked beautifully in the 1950's to identify Communists who were infiltrating Hollywood.

  • 26. Michelle Evans  |  January 16, 2014 at 11:00 am

    I can't find another place to post this, so I'll do it here.

    It would be great to see an article here about transgender individuals in New Jersey who have had their right to an amended birth certificate vetoed by Gov. Christie this week. This man has never been a friend of LGBT people as evidenced by his veto of marriage equality. I hope that Equality on Trail will give equal time to his disregard for transgender people as he did for marriage rights.

    Thank you.

  • 27. Rick O.  |  January 17, 2014 at 1:40 pm

    Christie's disregard is duly noted, but it would far easier to count politicians nationwide who have any regard for T rights, since the list is so small. One 6 year old T kid in Colorado school has caused an ugly mob to form, and our liberal elected officials have been mighty quiet. Sigh!

  • 28. Michelle Evans  |  January 17, 2014 at 2:02 pm

    You are certainly right about that Rick. And thank you for replying.

    Anything to do with trans people and trans rights unfortunately gets all the nut cases out in force. And the sad thing is that even within the rest of the LGBT community, trans is often left behind. Just look at the fact that no one has thought it important enough to even discuss this issue in a forum such as this one where we talk about equality every day. It is sad to see transgender being marginalized by those who know what it means to be marginalized.

    Sort of like after the repeal of Don't ask, Don't Tell. Everyone thought the work was done, but no one is complaining one bit that trans people are still prevented from serving in our military, and can be discharged if they are found out. We get left under the bus yet again.

  • 29. Frisky1  |  January 16, 2014 at 11:56 am

    LOL @Utah for digging the hole deeper by not recognizing marriages they performed and agree (at least in the sense that they handed out the licenses) are legal.

  • 30. grod  |  January 16, 2014 at 1:01 pm

    Frisky: With at least 5 other states saying that will recognize Utah marriages, its not surprising that Utah state agencies are backing away from non-recognition. Couples married between Dec 20 and Dec 31 can file joint tax returns .

  • 31. sfbob  |  January 16, 2014 at 1:21 pm

    It's going to be harder for them to defend their action in court when they're stuck with saying "We won't recognize these marriages except for the purposes for which we DO recognize these marriages."

    Some states (UT may be among them) may be finding themselves in a difficult position where their income tax laws are required to follow federal rules while they at the same time also have marriage equality ban that prevents them from following those very rules.

  • 32. StraightDave  |  January 16, 2014 at 1:53 pm

    MO is one such state. The Gov (or AG) recently said SS married couples (wed out of state) can file joint tax because MO state tax law specifically follows Fed tax law. He's getting a lot of flak for it, too, but 2 MO laws are now in direct conflict with each other. Can you say "coming apart at the seams"? There's no way this broken shambles of half-baked discrimination can survive 2-3 more years. The fuse has been lit.

  • 33. USA, Utah: Gays Can File &hellip  |  January 17, 2014 at 6:04 am

    […] Equality on Trial reports: […]

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