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Utah Politics
4:45 pm
Wed January 22, 2014

ACLU And Newlyweds Sue State Over Same-sex Marriage Recognition

The ACLU of Utah is suing the state - demanding that it continue to recognize those same-sex marriages that were performed during the short window the practice was legal in Utah.

John Mejia, Legal Director for the ACLU of Utah said the Herbert administration is going against both the Utah and Federal Constitutions by not recognizing marriages conducted during the window of time when same-sex marriage was legal in the state.

“In refusing to recognize those marriages they have violated the due process clauses of the Utah constitution and the US Constitution. So we are asking the court to grant declaratory relief and injunctive relief that will require the state to recognize all of those marriages going forward,” Mejia said.  

The group filed the case in Utah State Court on behalf of four couples who were married in the week-long window when same-sex marriage was legal in the state.

Among the plaintiffs in this new case are Matthew Barrazza and Tony Milner – who were married the day Federal Judge Robert Shelby ruled that Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional.  

Because Utah law prohibits joint adoption by unmarried couples, Barrazza and Milner where hopeful that their new status would mean that both could be legal parents of their 4-year-old son.

Here’s Matthew Barrazza, describing the situation in an interview with KCPW Radio last month:

“Only one of us could go ahead and adopt him. So this ruling allowing us to become married that changes everything for us and we can finally go forward and do a second parent adoption with him, and ensure that he’s protected in the event that something should happen to one of us,” Barrazza said.

His husband Tony currently has no legal claim to their son.

“The lawyer that we worked with laid it out [saying] ‘if your relation ship ever goes south, basically you have zero rights now and you always will unless you do a second parent adoption.’ So that’s scary,” he said.

Mejia said part of the impetus of the case is to get the state recognize the legal claim of these families.

“There are many families in Utah headed by same-sex couples and they were given the right to marry…they should have the same right as any other couple to adopt their stepchild and have their children and their families receive the same legal protections, obligations and benefits as any other family,” Mejia said.  

After a request from state attorneys, the US Supreme Court issued a stay to judge Shelby’s ruling, and Utah Governor Gary Herbert told state agencies not to move forward with new benefits for married couples – saying that the issue needed to be resolved by the courts.

Mejia, however, said the marriages are valid and should be recognized as legal now.

A statement from the governor’s office reads:

“Governor Herbert has said throughout this process that his responsibility is to follow the law. That is exactly what the administration is doing and we respect the rights of those who disagree to take their grievances before a judge.”