Utah is unable to reach a legal conclusion about the validity of gay marriages performed since a judge struck down the state’s ban on them last month, the state’s attorney general said.
"The state can neither recognize nor confer new marital benefits," Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes said in an e-mailed statement. "While the ultimate validity of such marriages is subject to the decision of a higher court, it is clear that the state is bound by law to limit any benefits attaching after" the U.S. Supreme Court halted gay weddings in Utah on Jan. 6.
The weddings will remain on hold while the state appeals a Salt Lake City federal judge’s ruling that the U.S. Constitution guarantees marriage rights to same-sex couples. More than 1,000 couples have sought marriage licenses in Salt Lake County alone, according to Sherrie Swensen, the county’s clerk, since U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby ruled Dec. 20 that the state’s voter-approved ban violates the Constitution.
Utah sought Supreme Court intervention after Shelby and a federal appeals court in Denver, which is now hearing the case, let the marriages go forward.
John Mejia, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union in Utah, didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment on Reyes’s statement.
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