US District Judge Robert J. Shelby’s ruling to legalize same sex marriage in Utah sent shock waves throughout the state on Dec. 20. According to Carbon County Attorney Gene Strate, the decision came as a surprise to county officials because it was unknown that the decision was even pending.
Because the ruling was announced late Friday evening, Carbon County was unable to look into the matter until Monday. Therefore, same sex marriage licenses were not issued in the county prior to Dec. 23.
“We heard of the ruling late Friday and the deputy attorneys looked into the matter late Monday afternoon following court,” Strate explained. “We worked as fast as we could but we had to make sure we knew the legalities of it before issuing any licenses.”
According to Strate, the attorney’s office has no issue at all with the court ruling. Some community members publicly voiced concern over Carbon County postponing the issuance of same sex marriage licenses until late Monday evening. Strate assured that this decision was not based on personal agenda, rather it was due to time constraints.
“It was startling when the ruling happened,” he stated. “It was awkward timing during the busy court week and before the holidays. It’s a court ruling and we have to comply.”
The first same sex marriage license in Carbon County was issued late Monday evening, Dec. 23, following review of the ruling by the county attorney’s office. Since that time, two other same sex marriage licenses have been issued in Carbon County according to courthouse records.
Although Emery County is issuing licenses upon request, no one has filed for one yet.
Across the state, approximately 1,000 same sex couples have already tied the knot in fear that the court decision allowing same sex marriage may be suspended due to an appeal by the state.
Efforts from Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and Utah’s new Attorney General Sean Reyes to have the court stay the decision until the state’s appeal can be heard have fallen upon deaf ears so far. Several attempts to discontinue same sex marriage have been denied by Judge Shelby and the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.
State lawmakers have also promised to have their request reviewed by Tenth Circuit Supreme Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor, who is expected to make a ruling on the matter as soon as this week.
According to Gov. Herbert, the decision to allow same sex marriage in Utah “has created a chaotic situation” in the state. Actions from the governor and other state leaders have many concerned and rushing out to apply for a license before a change is made.
With Judge Shelby’s ruling, Utah becomes the 18th state in the nation to legalize same sex marriage.