Same-sex couples shatter marriage records in Utah
Licenses • Three quarters of the more than $49,000 spent on marriage licenses in the first week same-sex marriage was legalized came from gay and lesbian couples.
Published: December 27, 2013 02:18PM
Updated: December 27, 2013 01:48PM
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Keith Johnson | The Salt Lake Tribune A crowd applauds outside the Salt Lake County clerks office, Friday, December 20, 2013 after Salt Lake Mayor Ralph Becker, center, performed the wedding for a gay couple who obtained a marriage license after a federal judge in Utah struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. Becker is helping launch a new group that supports same-sex marriage, Utah Unites for Marriage.

In the week since a federal judge overturned Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage, the number of weddings in the state has skyrocketed, shattering records and accruing thousands of dollars for Utah’s 29 counties.

As of close of business Thursday, more than 1,225 marriage licenses had been issued in Utah since last Friday, according to numbers obtained by The Salt Lake Tribune. Of those, at least 74 percent were issued to gay and lesbian couples.

That’s more than 905 same-sex couples who received marriage licenses in a week punctuated by holidays and limited — in some counties — by when their clerk began to adhere to U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby’s order.

Marriage licenses in Utah cost between $30 and $50, depending on the county.

With an average marriage license costing $40, counties in Utah made a grand total of more than $49,000 in the three-and-a-half days most county clerk’s offices were open this week.

About three-quarters of that money came from gay and lesbian couples seeking marriage licenses.

“It’s been really dramatic,” said Weber County Clerk Ricky Hatch, who doled out 144 marriage licenses since Monday in an office that typically averages about eight per day. “I would guess on Monday we were seeing 90 percent same-sex couples. It’s dropping back now to where it’s a lower percentage.”

Salt Lake County had the most marriages in the state this week, which is typical. But the numbers themselves were anything but.

Shattering a previously held record of 85 marriages in a given day, Salt Lake County handed out 353 on Monday — their first full day of issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Since last Friday, Salt Lake County gave out about 705 certificates, of which more than 90 percent were same-sex couples, said Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen, who estimated that the majority of opposite-sex couples on the books were served before Judge Shelby’s ruling came down late Friday afternoon.

Davis County issued the second-largest amount of marriage licenses in the state this week — 150 total licenses — but officials said they were not tracking how many went to same-sex versus opposite-sex couples.

“It’s definitely more than we usually see,” said Brian McKenzie, Davis County’s elections director who estimated the office would typically see between 45 and 60 couples in the same amount of time near the holidays. “We’re not counting same-sex couples any differently than opposite-sex couples. We treat them all the same: Enter their names into the computer and then move on and help the next couple in line.”

But not all counties saw a crush of couples seeking marriages.

Several of Utah’s smaller counties had no takers at all for licenses this week. Beaver, Daggett, Emery, Piute, Rich and San Juan County — which only began accepting marriage license applications from same-sex couples on Thursday — reported zero marriage licenses this week.

“We’ve literally had no one, zero,” said Vicky McKee, the clerk of Daggett County, population 1,090. “There’s certainly no run on marriage licenses here.”

One worker in Sevier County, which has a population of 20,700, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, marveled at how slow the clerk’s office has been.

“We’ve been offering same-sex licenses since Tuesday, but I don’t think we’ve done a single one,” said the man, who asked not to be identified. “I don’t know why.”

Piute, a small county of about 1,500 people in the center of the state, was the one county Thursday not granting licenses to same-sex couples.

The county wasn’t giving licenses to opposite-sex couples either.

County Clerk Valeen Brown was on vacation until Monday, officials said. So, Piute officials suspended all marriage license activity until Brown returns.

Workers in the office doubted it would make much difference.

The chances of couples breaking down the door to get married in Piute are slim to none, they said. Piute has seen only one marriage license request in the past three months, said county worker Lisa Tenney.

Utah County — which made national news this week when Shelly Eyre and her partner Cheryl Haws declared that they would sue its clerk for denying gay and lesbian couples licenses in the immediate aftermath of U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby’s ruling that overturned a statewide ban on same-sex marriages — was doling out certificates Thursday to all.

According to Bryan Thompson, the county’s clerk and auditor, about 25 couples came in Thursday seeking marriage licenses. Of those, five were same-sex couples, all of whom were granted the certificates.

“Moving forward, we probably won’t keep track of how many same-sex couples versus opposite-sex couples we issue licenses to,” Thompson told The Tribune. “I don’t see any reason to differentiate between them.”

mlang@sltrib.com

Twitter: @Marissa_Jae

How many marriages?

In the week since U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby overturned the ban on same-sex marriages, the number of weddings in Utah has skyrocketed. Here’s a county-by-county breakdown over the past seven days of same-sex marriages, total marriages and what percentage of the marriages entered were by lesbian and gay couples:

Beaver County: 0 same-sex marriages | 0 total marriages

Box Elder County: 2 same-sex marriages | 5 total marriages | 40 percent

Cache County: Did not respond to calls for comment.

Carbon County: 2 same-sex marriages | 4 total marriages | 50 percent

Daggett County: 0 same-sex marriages | 0 total marriages

Davis County: 150 total marriages*

Duchesne County: 2 same-sex marriages | 5 total marriages | 40 percent

Emery County: 0 same-sex marriages | 0 total marriages

Garfield County: Did not respond to calls for comment.

Grand County: 6 same-sex marriages | 8 total marriages | 75 percent

Iron County: 0 same-sex marriages | 3 total marriages | 0 percent

Juab County: 1 same-sex marriage | 3 total marriages | 33 percent

Kane County: 0 same-sex marriages | 3 total marriages | 0 percent

Millard County: 1 same-sex marriage | 2 total marriage | 50 percent

Morgan County: 0 same-sex marriages | 3 total marriages | 0 percent

Piute County: 0 same-sex marriages | 0 total marriages

Rich County: 0 same-sex marriages | 0 total marriages

Salt Lake County: 655 same-sex marriages | 705 total marriages | 93 percent**

San Juan County: 0 same-sex marriages | 0 total marriages

Sanpete County: 3 same-sex marriages | 5 total marriages | 60 percent

Sevier County: 0 same-sex marriages | 1 total marriage | 0 percent

Summit County: 37 same-sex marriages | 42 total marriages | 88 percent

Tooele County: 28 same-sex marriages | 36 total marriages | 78 percent

Uintah County: 9 same-sex marriages | 11 total marriages | 81 percent

Utah County: 5 same-sex marriages | 25 total marriages | 20 percent**

Wasatch County: 2 same-sex marriages | 6 total marriages | 33 percent

Washington County: 42 same-sex marriages | 63 total marriages | 67 percent

Wayne County: 0 same-sex marriages | 1 total marriage | 0 percent

Weber County: 110 same-sex marriages | 144 total marriages | 76 percent**

Statewide: more than 905 same-sex marriages | 1,225 total marriages | at least 74 percent

* Did not distinguish between same-sex and opposite-sex marriages; declined to estimate.

** Not an exact count. Based on daily percentage estimations by the county clerk.