The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website], in conjunction with a private law firm, filed a lawsuit [complaint, PDF] in the Third Judicial District Court for the State of Utah Salt Lake County [official website] on Tuesday on behalf of four same-sex married couples in Utah. The couples were legally married in Utah after a judge for the US District Court for the District of Utah [official website] struck down [JURIST report] the state's same-sex marriage ban in December, but before the US Supreme Court [official website] temporarily blocked [JURIST report] the issuance of same-sex marriage licenses in the state on January 6. The state has now placed recognition of the same-sex marriages on hold indefinitely [press release]. The complaint states that once the couples were legally married under Utah law, they immediately gained rights relating to the validity and recognition of their marriage, which are protected by the Due Process Clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. Legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah (ACLU) [advocacy website], John Mejia, stated, "[e]ven our attorney general said that the marriages were entitled to full recognition by the state at the time they were performed. Regardless of what ultimately happens in the federal challenge to Utah's marriage ban, the marriages that already occurred are valid and must be recognized now." The original federal lawsuit challenging Utah’s same-sex marriage ban remains on appeal before the US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit [official website].
Same-sex marriage [JURIST backgrounder] has been a widely debated issue in the US and the cause for recent controversy in the state of Utah. The Utah Attorney General originally filed an application for stay [JURIST report] with the US Supreme Court on January 2, to block same-sex marriages pending the state's appeal of December's district court decision, which struck down the state's same-sex marriage ban. The day after the Supreme Court responded by temporarily halting the issuance of same-sex marriage licenses in the state, the office of Utah Governor Gary Herbert sent an e-mail to state Cabinet members, directing them to place legal recognition of same-sex marriages within the state on hold [JURIST report] until further notice. On January 10, US Attorney General Eric Holder announced [JURIST report] that the federal government will recognize the marriages that took place while same-sex marriage was briefly allowed in the state of Utah, despite the state's determination that it will put recognition of the same-sex marriages on hold indefinitely.