Same Sex Marriage Issues Continue to Play on National Stage

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The United States Supreme Court granted a stay to the State of Utah as to implementing the decision of a federal judge who struck down Utah’s ban on same sex marriage (Herbert v. Kitchen). The granting of the stay means that same sex marriage will remain illegal in Utah as the matter runs up the lower court appeals process. Between the time that the federal judge struck down the ban, and the time that the Supreme Court granted the stay, some 950 same sex couples were married in Utah; the legal status of those marriages is unclear. After the matter has been fully litigated in the lower courts, the Supreme Court may well take up an appeal of this matter, but for now, the Court is content to allow the issue to continue to run through the legal system. 

As those who have attended our employment law breakfasts may recall, the application of many different federal laws and benefits vary – some apply to those who reside in states where same sex marriage is legal, some to those couples who were legally married in a same sex marriage state regardless of current state of residence. Rather than trying to wade through who was legally married where in order to determine benefits, many private employers have chosen to simply treat all same sex marriages as legal. 

Because Washington recognizes same sex marriages as legal, the state of residence/state of ceremony distinction is not a factor. However, as the national attention on the Eastside Catholic dismissal of their gay Vice Principal grows, it is clear that these issues have not been settled.


About the Authors

Karen Kalzer

Ms. Kalzer practices employment and education law with an emphasis on defending complex litigation for communities of faith, non-profits, schools and private employers.

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