Sunday, April 20, 2014

Court ruling has created 'chaotic situation,' Utah Gov. Gary Herbert says

By Wendy Leonard, Deseret News

Published: Sat, Dec. 21 6:25 p.m. MST

 Jenny Phillips, right, hugs her sister Marcy Taylor, both in tears, after Taylor and her partner, not pictured, were turned away from getting their marriage license at the Weber Center in Ogden on Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013. The Weber County Clerk's Office intended to open for one hour Saturday, but told the hundreds of gay couples waiting that they couldn't open due to security requirements and possible violations of equal protection provisions. Phillips is holding a letter from the Weber County Clerk explaining the situation. U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby overturned Utah's same-sex marriage ban Friday.

Jenny Phillips, right, hugs her sister Marcy Taylor, both in tears, after Taylor and her partner, not pictured, were turned away from getting their marriage license at the Weber Center in Ogden on Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013. The Weber County Clerk's Office intended to open for one hour Saturday, but told the hundreds of gay couples waiting that they couldn't open due to security requirements and possible violations of equal protection provisions. Phillips is holding a letter from the Weber County Clerk explaining the situation. U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby overturned Utah's same-sex marriage ban Friday.

(Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

OGDEN — As Utah Gov. Gary Herbert called for "an expedited judicial resolution" Saturday, same-sex couples who thought they could marry in Weber County were left disappointed.

Herbert said Friday's federal court ruling overturning Utah's voter-approved prohibition on same-sex marriage "has created a chaotic situation in our state that requires an expedited judicial resolution."

"Utahns deserve a fair and complete judicial process, and I strongly encourage Judge Shelby to grant the motion for stay until the appeal can be heard and Utah's constitutional defense of traditional marriage restored," Herbert said.

On Friday, U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby struck down Utah's constitutional amendment — which defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman — finding that it violates rights to due process and equal protection as set forth in the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Acting Attorney General Brian Tarbet said his office is "vigorously pursuing" an appeal. By 9 a.m. Monday, he intends to bring a motion to stay the order before Shelby.

"If he declines to rule at that time, we have already petitioned the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit for a temporary stay pending Judge Shelby's decision," Tarbet said in a statement Saturday.

Jessica Chavez and Alecia Conder, who said they have been in a relationship for nine years, were disappointed when they couldn't wed Saturday in Ogden.

"Today was going to be our day," said Chavez, 30.

The same-sex couple lined up outside the Weber Center with about 350 other Utahns in hopes of marrying with an official marriage license.

Weber County Clerk Ricky Hatch had planned to open his office for a couple of hours Saturday to alleviate the rush on marriage licenses he is expecting during regular business hours Monday. He did not, however, anticipate the security requirements of opening the building, and therefore had to turn away the hundreds who had gathered.

"I feel bad," Hatch said, adding a personal apology to anyone who waited for hours in the cold weather. "The decision was completely due to logistics."

The "chaotic situation" reference by Herbert seems to have spawned more questions than answers.

Bill Duncan, director of the Utah-based nonprofit Marriage Law Foundation, said he expects things to be "unsettled for a little while," even possibly until the U.S. Supreme Court weighs in down the road.

The validity of marriages performed in Salt Lake County on Friday will also lie with the high court.

"If the judge is wrong, then his ruling that the law can't be enforced is kicked out," Duncan said. "And so those licenses … wouldn't have anything other than a symbolic effect."

He said a number of similar ongoing court cases will help to resolve the issue at hand, but he expects "whatever happens, one side will be unhappy."

Cliff Rosky, chairman of Equality Utah, an advocacy group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Utahns, said other states and countries have to be "watching Utah right now."

"This case has the ability to settle the legality of same-sex marriage in all 50 states," he said, adding that he doesn't believe any legal marriages will be invalidated.

"That would be particularly cruel to the couples involved for fairly obvious reasons," Rosky said. "When the papers are signed, you are married."

Though the crowds that gathered at Weber County dispersed peaceably Saturday, many plan to return as early as possible Monday. Hatch said his office will be open at its regularly scheduled time, 8 a.m. He said additional personnel will be available "to help process as many applications as we can."

The office, which also processes passport applications and is responsible for other business, Hatch said, has never been pushed to its limit.

Email: wleonard@deseretnews.com, Twitter: wendyleonards

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1. Baccus0902
Leesburg, VA,
Dec. 21, 2013

To Utah's Governor Gary Herbert,

Sir, be wise with your place in history. Former Alabama Governor George Wallace is widely known for taking a stand that was immoral, bigoted and in the wrong side of history.

2. J. S.
Houston, TX,
Dec. 21, 2013

I hope this governor will spend more time on economy and creating jobs, instead of trying to take away same sex couples' right to marry. and frankly, no matter how he fights, no matter what kind of legal battles, even setbacks ahead, marriage equality will eventually win out and stay in Utah!

3. Bob K
porland, OR,
Dec. 21, 2013

Dear Gov Herbert:

One understands that you are compelled to attempt a quashing of the recent ruling, both by those who voted for you and your church.

I respectfully suggest that the "chaotic situation" comes purely from you and other officials not preparing for the inevitable arrival of marriage equality.

The judge really had no "wiggle room" NOT to rule for equality, due to several precedents, and because, especially with the Federal Government granting equality of benefits, etc, to same sex married, there is no legal or moral justification to continue to put a group of tax paying citizens out in the cold to please churches.

The ruling was due no later than next month. Was everyone playing ostrich about the very real possibility that the judge would do his duty?

On another DN thread, someone asked how the judge could possibly not follow the lds Doctrine of the Family, since it is so simple. Maybe you feel the same, but I believe Federal judges are sworn to follow the US Constitution, not my religion or yours.

4. Mike in Sandy
Sandy, UT,
Dec. 21, 2013

This is the real world...not the little bubble of fantasy that much of Utah fancies itself.

5. Red Corvette
SACRAMENTO, CA,
Dec. 21, 2013

Don't hold your breath Governor Herbert (and the rest of you who oppose same-sex marriage). The writing is on the wall. You have better things to do than oppose equal rights.