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This Is What Respect for Marriage Looks Like

Ian S. Thompson,
Senior Legislative Advocate,
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January 10, 2014

On Friday, Attorney General Holder confirmed that the federal government would continue recognizing the nearly 1,400 marriages issued to same-sex couples in Utah between December 20, 2013 and January 6, 2014. Holder said, “These families should not be asked to endure uncertainty regarding their status as the litigation unfolds.” The ACLU strongly agrees.

In a letter sent to Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes earlier this week, the ACLU of Utah made clear that these marriages were and remain valid and “have vested the married couples with rights that the state and federal governments must recognize.” Unfortunately, Governor Gary Herbert decided that the state would no longer recognize these same-sex couples as married. As a result, the ACLU of Utah has announced plans to file a class action lawsuit against Utah to require the state to also recognize these marriages, even as the legal challenge to Utah’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples moves forward in the courts.

Today, Attorney General Holder showed what respect for marriage actually looks like. He gave nearly 1,400 committed and loving couples certainty that, at least as far as the federal government is concerned, there marriages will continue to be recognized and respected. The significance for these couples is tremendous.

In its brief to the Supreme Court asking for a halt to these marriages, Utah said that these couples would be “harmed in their dignity” if the state ultimately prevailed and the ban on marriage for same-sex couples was upheld by the courts. What can be more harmful to these couples’ dignity than marrying only to be unmarried by the government, once again treating spouses who have committed to sharing their lives together as strangers in the eyes of the law?

Thankfully, the federal government agreed. As for Utah, well, we’ll see you in court.

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