Marriage is now open to all Utahns
A quick succession of decisions and announcements Monday morning resulted in same-sex marriage essentially becoming the law of the land in Utah.
First, the U.S. Supreme Court revealed that it would not hear appeals from any of the five states, including Utah, fighting to uphold same-sex marriage bans that have been struck down.
Next, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which had allowed Utah to "stay" — or delay while it appealed — the effect of District Court Judge Richard Shelby’s landmark decision striking down the same-sex marriage ban, ended the stay. With the Supreme Court declining to hear Utah’s appeal, there is no other court for the state to appeal to. The case had run its course.
Finally, Governor Gary Herbert confirmed that Utah is out of options to fight it and that same-sex marriage is legal in Utah. Just as important, those marriages will now be recognized in the same manner as opposite-sex marriages when it comes to all manner of benefits and rights.
"While I continue to believe states should have the right to define marriage and create laws regarding marriage, ultimately we are a nation of laws and we will uphold the law," Herbert said Monday.
Summit County Clerk Kent Jones, who is responsible for issuing marriage licenses in the county, confirmed Monday that his door is open for same-sex couples.
"We’ll follow the law and if anyone comes in, we’ll go ahead with it," he said.
Jones’s office issued 41 marriage licenses to same-sex couples during the brief period last winter when same-sex marriages were being permitted in the state, after Shelby’s decision but before the appeals court put the stay in place. Those marriages, and the 1,000+ other marriages that took place at the time throughout the state, are now no different in the eyes of the law than any other marriages.
One of those 41 couples, Parkites Heather Miller and Kelly Vickers, had been in a state of legal limbo and told The Park Record Monday they were "ecstatic."
The couple has a 3-year-old boy named Calder. Vickers is the legal mother and Miller is only a guardian – meaning she does not have full parental rights over Calder. It’s the biggest reason the couple wanted to wed, and when the window cracked open last winter, they leapt through it and got their marriage license. Then, they started the adoption process, so Miller could become her son’s legal parent.
It’s a long process, Miller says, and for months she’s been going through things like fingerprinting, background checks and the like. But there was a lot of uncertainty over what a judge would ultimately decide to allow.
"We still could have gotten in front of a judge who said, ‘until [the Supreme Court] rules on this, I’m not going to put through this adoption, because the state is appealing so we have to wait," Miller said.
Now, though, the uncertainty and fear is gone. "There’s nothing that should stop that now," Miller said of the adoption process. Just as importantly, if the couple decides to have another child, they could both be listed on the birth certificate.
"It makes it a lot better for the future," Miller said. "It’s huge. It’s just amazing for Utah."
As of Tuesday afternoon, no same-sex couples had rushed out to get a marriage license in Summit County. Though there is surely some pent-up demand, couples intending to marry don’t need to race against the clock now, as they did last winter. Now they can plan ahead, like everyone else.
Park City’s former mayor, Dana Williams, performed dozens of marriages during last winter’s brief window. The current mayor, Jack Thomas, said Monday "I’ll gladly perform those weddings."
"I was very pleased that this has been resolved. I think it’s about time that we try to treat everybody as an equal in our community," he added. "I don’t think we can consider ourselves to be a holistic and equal community if we didn’t solve this. So I’m glad to see it."
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Summit County’s sales taxes are beating 2019 levels, with an estimated additional $1.2 million in revenue. Councilors debated using the money to hire more employees.