The office of Utah Governor Gary Herbert [official profile] on Tuesday sent an e-mail to state Cabinet members, directing them to place legal recognition of same-sex marriages within the state on hold until further notice [press release]. This directive comes as a result of Monday's decision by the US Supreme Court [official website] to temporarily block [JURIST report] the issuance of same-sex marriage licenses in the state of Utah. The Utah Attorney General [official website] filed an application for stay [text, PDF] with the court last week to block same-sex marriages pending the state's appeal of a US district judge's December 20 decision [JURIST report] striking down the state's voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage. Three similar applications to the US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit [official website] have already been rejected [JURIST report]. Tuesday's directive by the governor's office also specifies that no further same-sex marriages are to be performed or given legal recognition within the state "pending final resolution by the courts."
Same-sex marriage [JURIST backgrounder] has recently been a controversial issue in the US and internationally. On Monday four same-sex couples filed a class action lawsuit [JURIST report] in the US District Court for the District of Arizona, seeking to overturn the state's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. In December the US District Court for the District of Utah ruled that Utah's constitutional and statutory bans on same-sex marriage violated due process and equal protection guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution. On the same day as the Utah court's judgment, the Uganda parliament passed a bill limiting the rights of same-sex couples and imposing a penalty of up to life imprisonment [JURIST report] for involvement in homosexual relationships. Earlier that week, New Mexico's high court ruled that it is unconstitutional [JURIST report] to deny same-sex couples the right to marry. The same week, the US executive branch announced that it would begin processing Social Security payments [JURIST report] to surviving couples in accordance with a US Supreme Court ruling [JURIST report] issued this past summer which struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) [text], a federal statute that defined marriage as a legal union between a man and a woman for all federal purposes and refused to recognize any other type of marriage.