Utah counties are evading the court’s ruling on gay marriage. Several counties are flatly refusing to issue licenses, acting in contempt of federal court. My home county of Cache has simply closed their office to all citizens in order to stall before the holiday closing — the closure is purportedly a misdemeanor offense. Update, Dec. 24: The Cache County office is open and the first marriages are being officiated on-site.
The Salt Lake Tribune is not mincing words:
Utah counties looking to the state government for clarification on whether to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples Monday were left to their own devices — and some turned couples away despite plain talk from U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby.
In essence, Shelby, who on Friday struck down Utah law forbidding same-sex marriage, said Monday that county clerks who do not issue licenses to gay and lesbian couples are violating the law.
…As of late Monday, Beaver, Carbon, Weber, Davis, Daggett, Emery, Salt Lake, Summit, Tooele, Duchesne, Uintah, Morgan, Millard, Grand, Iron, Kane, Rich, Sanpete, Sevier, Wayne, Washington and Wasatch counties were issuing same-sex marriage licenses.
It is an embarrassment that Cache county — home of Utah State University — is one of the few counties to try and interfere with the court’s ruling. It is especially embarrassing since Cache was one of the first counties to declare that they would issue the licenses. There is something buffoonish about these officials’ statements that they “need clarification.” A Think Progress article likens it to a Jim Crow tactic, recalling a Virginia county that shut down it’s school system rather than comply with court rulings on racial integration. I think that comparison is a bit extreme, unless Cache continues to resist the ruling (so far it has only been one day of clownish evasion).
A KUTV reporter followed one couple who sought a marriage license in Utah county, but were denied by Auditor Bryan Thomson. According to the report,
Thompson told the two, “Today our office is not issuing marriage licenses; we are waiting for further clarification.” Thompson said he knew he could face misdemeanor charges, but was willing to take the risk. He went on to tell the women it was “not personal.” The women retorted, “This is personal. You’re making the choice, you have the power.”
The Herald Journal also notes that Cache county’s closing denies services to heterosexual couples, which is also a misdemeanor:
Swink said Shelby’s initial 53-page ruling is still “being digested” — including the issue of closing the clerk’s office, which resulted in the denial of licenses to straight couples, which is a misdemeanor.
Most of the state has been able to figure out the ruling and comply. The remaining counties are engaged in outright defiance of the court. They are on the wrong side of history, and they are making us all look bad.
After being closed for one day, the Cache County clerk’s office opened Dec 24 and began issuing marriage licenses to all couples. The first marriage was officiated by Unitarian Universalist minister Beth Walden:
[image credit: Kevin Opsahl, @KevJourno on Twitter]