Utah County Adopts Jim Crow Tactic, Preventing Same-Sex Couples From Marrying


Segregationist Sen. Harry F. Byrd Sr. (D-VA)

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s school desegregation decision in Brown v. Board of Education, Virginia Sen. Harry F. Byrd called for a campaign of “massive resistance” to Brown in an effort to thwart public school integration. One Virginia county even shut down its public school system entirely from 1959 until 1964 in order to prevent black children from attending school alongside white ones. Fifty years after Prince Edward County, Virginia reopened its schools, however, a Utah county clerk has apparently decided to follow its lead.

The Cache County, Utah Clerk’s office is closed on Monday, meaning that no one who visits that office may obtain a marriage license — whether they are gay or straight. Though the county has not explicitly stated that it closed the office in an act of massive resistance to a recent federal court decision calling for marriage equality in Utah, the county attorney’s office released a statement linking the closure to that decision: “Given the status of the pending motion for a stay and the appeal that will be filed by the state of Utah, the Clerk’s Office will be closed until further notice.”

Both the county attorney’s office and the county executive’s office declined to provide further comment to ThinkProgress on why the county clerk’s office is not open. Nor did they answer the question “do you think the judge’s opinion” holding that the Constitution requires marriage equality “was unclear?” Instead, they repeatedly referred me to the press statement indicating that the clerk’s office will remain closed indefinitely “to sort out the legal issues and confusion created in the wake of Judge Shelby’s opinion.”

Some other Utah counties have kept their clerk’s office open while simply refusing to provide licenses to same-sex couples. Cache County, however, appears to have taken a different tactic. Rather than simply comply with a federal court decision requiring same-sex couples to be afforded the same constitutional rights as opposite-sex couples, Cache County decided to stop issuing licenses to everyone gay or straight. Harry Byrd would be proud.


Eric Ethington, a staffer with a self-described “social justice think tank” who is monitoring the clerks’ office in Utah County, Utah reports that the Utah County Clerk says he will “NOT issue marriage licenses, even though knows it might be illegal for him not to.”

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On Christmas Eve, Cache County relented and agreed to open their Clerk’s office for half a day.

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