At issue was the fact that, during a brief period in December 2013, same-sex couples were granted official marriage licenses. This legal designation caused confusion among government agencies, including the Utah Department of Health.
The Department of Health, who is responsible for birth certificates and amending such documents, refused to provide an amended birth certificates to include second-parent adoptions from same-sex couples.
The practice of petitioning the court for a second-parent adoption often takes place after a spouse marries and chooses to adopt one or more of their spouses children from a prior relationship. Under state law an individual can only adopt children if they are legally married.
Because same-sex marriages were granted full legal status temporarily, couples argued that there was no legal reason to refuse an adoption request. The Department of Health, however, noted that the state does note currently recognize those marriages and, therefore, could not grant an adoption to any same-sex couple married during the two week window.
Further complicating the issue is the fact that the Attorney Generals Office has said that marriage certificates issued during the short period of time are valid.
On April 9, 3rd District Court Judge, Andrew Stone, gave Kimberly and Amber Leary the go-ahead to request a joint adoption certificate. Not soon after, the Department of Health refused the request. The family, in turn, sued the Department of Health, along with Attorney General Sean Reyes, who represents the state in such matters, for contempt of court.
Reyes quickly issued a Petition for Emergency Relief asking that the Utah Supreme Court put a stay on the 3rd District Court’s decision on the grounds that Stone’s decision may have violated other aspects of Utah law.
According to a press release sent on Friday from the AG’s office “The stay appears to apply to a pending Order to Show Cause from one judge requiring two officials from the Department and the Attorney General to explain why the Department had not yet complied with the district court’s order.”
The stay means that adoptions will not be allowed until legal clarity can be provided by the Supreme Court. The stay, according to the AG’s office, also excuses the action of the Health Department from explaining why it chose to ignore the 3rd District Court’s ruling.