Same-sex marriage lasted in Utah for about 2 1/2 weeks.
On Wednesday, the Utah governor’s office directed state agencies to ignore the hundreds of gay marriages that were performed in the state after a federal judge struck down the state’s ban Dec. 20.
The move – which has significant implications for Utah couples seeking to file joint tax returns or join their spouses’ health care plans – comes two days after the U.S. Supreme Court halted same-sex marriage ceremonies in Utah while the matter is debated by an appeals court.
With the hold, the governor’s office said Wednesday, Utah’s original laws on same-sex marriage went back into effect.
“It is important to understand that those laws include not only a prohibition of performing same-sex marriages but also recognizing same-sex marriages,” said a letter to state agencies from Derek Miller, chief of staff for the state’s Republican governor, Gary Herbert.
Confusion had swirled in Utah after same-sex marriages started taking place immediately after the judge’s ruling in December.
Last summer, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages but stopped short of saying whether state bans on the practice were unconstitutional.
Since then, however, lower courts have mimicked the Supreme Court’s arguments that such bans violate gay and lesbian couples’ civil rights, which is what the federal judge in Utah, Robert Shelby, also decided.
And Shelby went a step further. “The Constitution protects the plaintiffs’ fundamental rights, which include the right to marry and the right to have that marriage recognized by their government,” Shelby wrote in his opinion.
The state’s attorney general appealed Shelby’s ruling and made emergency requests for the practice to be put on hold.