DENVER — The legal saga in Utah over same-sex marriage grew even more complicated Tuesday, as four couples who had married during the brief window that Utah permitted such weddings sued the state over its recent decision not to recognize their marriages or provide any new state benefits to same-sex newlyweds.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Utah, which filed the lawsuit on their behalf, said that Utah’s decision had thrown hundreds of new marriages into uncertainty, depriving gay couples of the ability to obtain health care coverage as spouses, to adopt children together legally or to make medical decisions if a spouse or family member were to fall ill.
More than 1,300 same-sex couples rushed to exchange vows after a federal judge in Salt Lake City overturned the state’s ban on same-sex marriage last month. The judge ruled that Utah’s laws limiting marriages to one man and one woman deprived gay couples of their fundamental right to marry.
For about 2 1/2 weeks, same-sex marriage was the law across Utah, a socially conservative state, with county clerks performing same-sex weddings and state officials providing name changes, new driver’s licenses and other marital benefits to same-sex couples. That ended Jan. 6, when the U.S. Supreme Court agreed with Utah’s request to block the judge’s ruling temporarily, halting any further same-sex marriages while Utah officials appeal the case to a higher court.
Shortly after the Supreme Court issued the stay, Utah officials said the ban on same-sex marriages was now back in effect and that those marriages that had already taken place were, effectively, “on hold.” The officials said they would not revoke any benefits they had already granted, but said they would also stop providing new benefits.