Since Monday, same-sex couples who were married in Utah have been experiencing what new Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes called a state of "legal limbo" since the implementation of the stay of District Court Judge Robert J. Shelby's Dec. 20 ruling striking down Utah's ban on same-sex marriages.
On Wednesday, Jan. 8, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert directed state agencies not to recognize same-sex marriages performed in the state as valid. More than 1,300 same-sex couples were legally married before the stay was put in place.
Liana Teteberg, a Summit Park resident, married her partner, Lisa Yoder, at the Summit County Courthouse on Dec. 23. She said they are concerned about whether or not she and Yoder can file their taxes jointly, but expressed more concern over what she perceives to be the state passing moral judgment.
"We're [getting married] in a state where people's conservative and religious opinions are imposed on people who don't share those opinions," Teteberg said. "For the state to try to impose [what] they perceive to be a moral value is just wrong."
As a clarification to county attorneys and clerks, Attorney General Reyes issued a letter on Thursday advising them to mail same-sex marriage certificates to couples who were married before the stay was implemented. He called such an action "administrative and consistent with Utah law."
supplying the certificates, Reyes went on to write that, although the State of Utah cannot legally recognize such marriages currently, the couples would have proper documentation in states that do recognize same-sex marriage.
On Friday, the Obama Administration stated that it would recognize the same-sex marriages that occurred in Utah as lawful, despite the state's refusal to do so.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said in a video on the Justice Department's website, "I am confirming today that, for purposes of federal law, these marriages will be recognized as lawful and considered eligible for all relevant federal benefits on the same terms as other same-sex marriages. These families should not be asked to endure uncertainty regarding their status as the litigation unfolds."
Teteberg said she thinks it is "unfathomable" that the state could invalidate a contract that was legally entered, and added, "I don't think there's any precedence for that." Teteberg and Yoder were married in Washington state last summer and receive federal tax benefits, but not state benefits.
"It's very disconcerting for the people who entered [into] those agreements legally," Teteberg said. "There's no doubt we all anticipated there would be another battle to be fought, whether in the 10th District Court or whether it's going to be pushed up to the Supreme Court."
Mid-day Friday, the Salt Lake Tribune reported that over 1,000 activists, same-sex marriage supporters as well as the plaintiffs in the case against Utah's ban on same-sex marriage, Derek Kitchen and Moudi Sbeity, showed up to the Utah Capitol Rotunda to deliver thousands of signatures telling Gov. Herbert to let Shelby's ruling stand.
The first petition to be turned in, asking Gov. Herbert to let Shelby's ruling stand, garnered 45,362 signatures as of Friday morning. The second petition, which received 12,794 signatures, calls on the state to use the $2 million it is willing to spend fighting Shelby's ruling, to "feed the homeless, stock the food banks, clothe the poor and do something to improve the lives of your fellow man."
Teteberg said she and Yoder will probably speak with an accountant about how they will have to file their taxes, but she had some choice words for Gov. Herbert as well.
"What's it to you? Why does what I do affect you and others? Your marriage doesn't affect me. Why mine [affects] you, I'm not sure," Teteberg said.
The state's stay on same-sex marriages, though temporary, will continue until the state can formulate its appeal to the 10th Circuit Court. Utah same-sex couples can only be sure of one thing: that their state of "legal limbo" may not end any time soon.