Friday, the Obama Administration made its next move in the legal battle for same-sex marriage by upholding the rights given to same-sex couples that Utah has since denied. 1,300 same-sex couples have been affected after the Supreme Court of the United States halted a recent lift of the ban on same-sex marriage in the State of Utah. With the ongoing legal confusion, the law regarding same-sex marriage is now in the Utah appellate court.
Last year the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in States v Windsor that Americans will have equal protection and equal treatment under the law in regards to a same-sex marriage. However, the stay put on the ruling has sent 1,300 newly-married same-sex couples into a legal limbo.
A gay rights group motioned to the U.S. government to recognize the marriages of same-sex couples that occurred in the two weeks after the states lifted the ban on gay unions. This occurred when a Federal District Judge deemed the ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. However, Governor Gary Hebert called for a freeze on further pending inquiries for state marriage benefits. He also called for the 1,300 same-sex marriages not to be recognized by the state.
Governor Herbert’s Chief of Staff Derek Miller is reported to have emailed cabinet members about the nature of the temporary ban. Miller stated that the further recognition and processing of same-sex marriages and all application for benefits, thereafter, will be put on hold.
The Obama Administration’s switch the stance regarding the law comes as the next step in the President’s growing development of policy towards same-sex marriage. President Obama is coordinating with Attorney General Eric Holder to develop an official policy for upholding the rights the state of Utah has denied. Regarding the Court’s action, Holder stated, “In the meantime, I am confirming today that, for the 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.”
Since the event has unfolded, other states have become involved in the legal battle. Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler stated that he believes that all same-sex marriages and civil unions performed legally in the State of Utah will be recognized in Maryland. Gansler made this statement in regards to a letter from the Human Rights Campaign to 17 other attorneys general. In 2012, Maryland, along with two other states, became the first in the union to legalize same-sex marriage through popular vote.
Although the Obama Administration’s current stance on same-sex marriage has its supporters, there is a dissent. Those denouncing the decision by the Justice Department include Brian Brown, President of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM). “It is the rights of states to define marriage and the voters and the legislature of Utah have done that.” The NOM President also went further to denounce the Obama Administration’s stance because he believes it infringes upon the rights of the state of Utah and uses unwarranted federal power. He said the Administration, “simply has no regard for the constitution and the rule of law.”
Even though the legal marriages performed in Utah since the lift on the ban are not recognized by the state, there is a slight hope outside of Utah. The administrative, but not legal, applications filed to by same-sex couples will provide them with documentation for the marriage to be recognized in other states that currently uphold same-sex marriage.
The law providing equal protection and equal treatment for same-sex couples is going to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, Colorado. For now, both Obama and Holder will work to alleviate the inconvenience caused by Utah and uphold legally-performed marriages. This move does pose unflattering constitutional implications for the current administration. Despite that, have we not seen a shift in social and cultural viewpoints regarding same-sex marriage? Only time will tell.
By: Alex Lemieux