The Summit County Clerk's Office on Monday stopped issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples after the Supreme Court granted Utah's request that they be halted in what was another dramatic event in the long-running dispute about gay marriage in the state.
Kent Jones, the county clerk, said his office last issued a marriage license to a same-sex couple on Friday. The office issued 41 licenses to same-sex couples between Dec. 23 and Friday. More than half of them were issued on the first day, when a crowd of same-sex couples descended on the County Courthouse in an extraordinary scene. Many of them were married on the spot in Coalville when they secured the licenses.
The Supreme Court on Monday agreed with state officials that the marriages should be halted as Utah challenges a late-December ruling by a U.S. District Court judge that the state's voter-approved prohibition of same-sex marriages is unconstitutional.
Same-sex couples who received marriage licenses before the stoppage are uncertain what will happen to the marriages if the state is successful in its challenge.
Debbie Barnes, a Summit Park resident who married her partner in Coalville, said in an interview on Monday the state is attempting to "stop our love."
"Now it feels like a big cloud is coming down on us. It's painful," Barnes said.
Barnes said she contacted an attorney on Monday asking whether the marriage remains legal.
Since the marriage, she said, her employer, Deer Valley Resort, determined her wife is eligible to be covered on Barnes' employer-provided insurance policies, including health, dental and life.
"For the first time in 35 years, I've been able to protect my family unit, legally," she said.
Dana Williams, who retired as the Park City mayor on Monday, said in an interview before leaving office he performed 30 same-sex marriages since Dec. 23, the most recent being last week. Williams in December, days before the District Court judge's ruling in support of same-sex marriage, made an unexpected statement backing marriage rights for gay people.
"Now it's just hold our breath time and see what happens," Williams said on Monday.
He said he anticipates the Supreme Court will determine the state's prohibition of same-sex marriages is unconstitutional. Williams said such a determination by the Supreme Court could be a de facto approval of same-sex marriage nationally.
"This is just another . . . step in human civil rights, meaning the Supreme Court decision," Williams said.
Bruce Palenske, a Jeremy Ranch resident who married his partner in December in Washington state, said in an interview on Monday the Supreme Court's halting of same-sex marriages in Utah was a "step backwards." He suggested same-sex couples leave Utah to be married and then stay in the state where they were married if they want to enjoy the same state rights as people in traditional marriages.
"They had a short window to do it," he said about same-sex marriages in Utah, adding, "Now we're starting over from square one."