Supreme Court Delays Benefits for Utah Gay Couples
More than 1,000 same-sex married couples in Utah will have to wait longer for state benefits after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Friday that state officials don't have to recognize the marriages until their appeal is heard.
The couples were wed during a 17-day stretch in December when same-sex marriages were legal before the nation's highest court put the practice on hold. They had been set to get benefits Monday.
Instead, couples including Matthew Barraza and Tony Milner will have to put off plans to apply for benefits such as child custody. They have a pending request to have Milner recognized as a legal parent of their son, Jesse, who is only Barraza's son under the law. Barraza called the ruling disappointing.
"I know these things take time, but every day there's a degree of anxiety about our family and our situation with our son," Barraza said. "We just want all the protections that come along with marriage, for our family to be treated fairly like anyone else."
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert applauded the Supreme Court's decision. "I believe states have the right to determine their laws regarding marriage and, as I have said all along, that decision will ultimately come from the United States Supreme Court," he said in a statement.
The Supreme Court's order doesn't apply to any other states, but it could foretell how the high court would deal with similar situations elsewhere, said Douglas NeJaime, a University of California-Irvine law professor. Hundreds of other gay couples also married in Michigan, Wisconsin and Indiana after state bans were struck down and before those rulings were put on hold.
The order from the high court does not, however, reveal anything about how the justices might eventually rule on the overarching issue of the constitutionality of state gay marriage bans, NeJaime said.
"It's just saying that it makes sense to keep things they are until there is a ruling on the merits," NeJaime said.