Thursday night on her MSNBC show, Rachel Maddow took a look at the current state of disarray in the Utah Attorney General’s office, and how a scandal there provided an opening for same-sex couples to marry before the state could intervene.
She began the segment by pointing out an unusual “help wanted” ad in which the AG’s office sent out a plea for outside counsel to assist in the case of Kitchen et al. v. Herbert et al. This is the case, Maddow said, “that just shut down Utah’s ban on gay marriage right before Christmas.”
In Utah, in the wake of the court’s decision in the case, same-sex couples rushed to their county courthouses to get marriage licenses. Normally, Maddow noted, there is a little delay time between a court ruling and its implementation, but the Utah AG’s office “in this case, screwed it up.”
“The state made a mistake in the way they handled the gay marriage case,” said Maddow, “and that’s why all those couples in Utah were literally able to run into their clerk’s offices and start getting married as soon as the ruling came down.”
You see, she said, the Utah Attorney General’s office “has been a bit of a mess, lately.”
In November, Utah’s then-Attorney General, John Swallow resigned from office after a series of revelations about his unethical business dealings and misleading statements made in previous investigations.
Utah needed an acting AG, so the state appointed Brian Tarbet, who neglected to file a pre-emptive stay against same sex marriages should the court find against the state’s ban on same-sex marriages, which it did. As a result, during the time between the court’s ruling and whenever the appeal is heard, there is nothing to stop same-sex couples from marrying in Utah.
This is a basic clerical error, Maddow said, something you learn to do in your first year of law school “even if your law school is not a very good law school.”
Since then, she said, Utah’s governor has chosen a new, permanent AG, but not Brian Tarbet,
“and that’s maybe because, well, giant failure.”
“That is what brings us back to the ‘help wanted’ ad,” she continued, “which is basically a giant SOS from the brand new, totally-in-turmoil, screwup Attorney General’s office.”
“The story’s not over. The state has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to put a hold on same-sex marriages in Utah while the appeal is in process, which could happen, so watch this space.”
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