Utah issues 900 marriage licenses to gay couples

Ruth Hackford-Peer, right, and Kim Hackford-Peer, standing next to her, are married by Rev. Curtis Price, left, while hugging their two children Riley Hackford-Peer, back middle, and Casey Hackford-Peer, bottom middle, in the lobby of the Salt Lake County Clerk's Office in Salt Lake City on Friday, Dec. 20, 2013. A federal judge ruled on Friday that Utah's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. (AP Photo/Kim Raff)

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) – Utah has issued more than 900 marriage licenses to gay couples in the week after a federal judge struck down the state’s ban.

Salt Lake, Davis and Weber counties were issuing the bulk of licenses, with Weber doling them out at 18 times the usual rate earlier this week.

“It’s been really dramatic,” Weber County Clerk Ricky Hall told The Salt Lake Tribune.

The newspaper broke down the numbers by county. Summit County, home of liberal-leaning Park City, has issued 27 licenses to gay couples.

The state plans to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to step in and put a halt to gay marriages while they appeal the judge’s ruling overturning the ban. The first appeal would be heard by the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. That court has already refused to put a hold on the law in the meantime.

Counties charge $30 to $50 for marriage licenses, and they netted around $49,000 since last Friday, The Tribune calculated. Some of the money came from around 320 licenses issued to heterosexual couples in the past week.

Salt Lake County handed out the most marriage licenses this week, 705 total _ with 655 going to same-sex couples, Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen said. On Monday alone it issued 353 licenses, smashing a previous one-day record of 85.

Davis County issued the second-largest number of marriage licenses in the state this week _ 150 total licenses. Davis was the only county that couldn’t specify how many of those licenses went to same-sex couples.

“It’s definitely more than we usually see,” said Brian McKenzie, Davis County’s elections director who estimated the office would typically see between 45 and 60 couples over the holidays. “We’re not counting same-sex couples any differently than opposite-sex couples. We treat them all the same: Enter their names into the computer and then move on and help the next couple in line.”

Not all counties saw a run on marriage licenses. The smallest rarely issue more than one license a month.

That’s the case in Piute County, where officials told The Associated Press that they have been mistakenly identified in some news reports as Utah’s last holdout, unwilling to issue same-sex licenses. Piute County hasn’t been issuing any licenses since its clerk took vacation _ but nobody has asked for one either, they said.

Piute County is so small _ population around 1,500 _ it doesn’t have a single traffic light. The county’s attorney, Mark McIff, said it decided to authorize same-sex licenses on Tuesday, and that a temporary clerk can help anyone needing a license work through another county. The regular clerk will be back next week.

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