Utah County refuses to issue same-sex marriage licenses

Published December 23, 2013 3:14 pm
Courts • Utah County clerk says, "We're in uncharted territory."
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Provo • Utah County officials turned aside three same-sex couples Monday, citing a need for legal clarification from the county attorney.

"Until I receive the further clarification that I'm seeking, the Utah County Clerk's Office will not be making any policy changes in regards to [whom] we issue marriage licenses," according to a statement released by Clerk Bryan E. Thompson.

For Helen Wright, it was the second denial since Friday. She and her partner, who did not want to be identified, were denied in Millard County.

"I can't understand why they're denying it," Wright said.

Thompson said he was not issuing licenses for the benefit of same-sex couples, as well.

"We're in uncharted territory," Thompson said, explaining why he was not issuing licenses for the benefit of same-sex couples. "Those issued licenses could have their marriages overturned" if Shelby or a higher court stays the decision.

Keri Burton and Melanie Lloyd weren't buying Thompson's argument.

"I don't accept that," said Burton, an Orem resident.

"Other counties are issuing licenses," Lloyd said.

U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby said Monday in conjunction with denying a state request to stay his Friday decision making same-sex marriages legal in Utah, that his ruling allows all people the "fundamental right" of marriage. Shelby said counties who don't comply are breaking the law.

Utah County Commissioner Larry Ellertson said the county was waiting for the 10th Circuit to rule before it will issue any licenses to same-sex couples.

"We'll abide by the law, once we know what it is," Ellertson said.

When asked about the possibility of Thompson being found in contempt for refusing to issue licenses, Ellertson said "that is a risk we have to take."

Same-sex marriage supporters were also disappointed by Thompson's decision.

Berta Marquez, a Mormon who is also a non-denominational minister, had hoped to officiate for couples at the county building. Instead, she lamented what she saw as ironic hypocrisy.

"As a Mormon, it saddens me that as a people who were persecuted for not fitting the majority marriage template, we are now being inhospitable to our LGBT brothers and sisters," Marquez said.

Brannon Richardson, a Mormon who has a homosexual brother, said this is a civil-rights issue.

The law is, you can issue a marriage license to any two human beings who want to get married," Richardson said.

Brianna Cluck and Stefani Sarem were also denied a marriage license, even though they were different genders. Cluck is a transgender person.

"We came down to make a political point," Sarem said.

"I feel like the court denying [Amendment 3] was clarification enough for Utah County," Cluck said.



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