LGBT rights groups have reacted with anger after Utah Governor Gary Herbert’s office suspended the state’s recognition of the marriages of same-sex couples who tied the knot in December and January.
The around 1,000 couples got married after a federal judge overturned the state’s ban on same-sex marriage on 20 December.
The ban was reinstated by the US Supreme Court on 6 January while the state’s appeal process against the original ruling is underway.
On Wednesday, the Governor’s Chief of Staff Derek Miller added insult to injury when he announced the validity of the same-sex marriage licenses issued earlier would not be recognised.
“Wherever individuals are in the process of availing themselves of state services related to same-sex marital status, that process is on hold and will stay exactly in that position until a final court decision is issued,” said Miller.
“For example, if a same-sex married couple previously changed their names on new drivers’ licenses, those licenses should not be revoked. If a same-sex couple seeks to change their names on drivers licenses now, the law does not allow the state agency to recognise the marriage therefore the new driver’s licenses cannot be issued.”
Human Rights Campaign (HRC) president Chad Griffin slammed the Governor’s move.
“Today’s decision harms hundreds of Utah families and denies them the respect and basic protections that they deserve as legally married couples,” said Griffin.
“Governor Herbert has once again planted himself firmly on the side of discrimination by preserving the second-class status he believes gay and lesbian Utahans merit. These families deserve better and I have no doubt the courts will soon grant them the justice and equality that our Constitution demands.”
It is unclear when the appeal case against the ruling legalising same-sex marriages will be heard but it appears that the state of Utah, which remains opposed to marriage equality, is determined to exhaust all legal options to keep gay marriage banned.