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Business owners find feds' recognition of same-sex marriage confusing

By Ashley Kewish  |  Posted Jan 10th, 2014 @ 10:43pm


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LEHI — When U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder assured same-sex couples recently married in Utah that their marriages will be recognized by the federal government, it added to the confusion for Utah businesses owners who now have to decide whether to follow state or federal law.

Rob Scott is the owner of XSI Factory, a multi-sport athletic facility with 20 full-time employees. He offers health insurance and other incentives, but admitted he's isn't sure what the law requires in terms of same-sex married employees.

"It's confusing," Scott said. "Anytime you deal with a government regulatory issue, and then add the state and federal government having difference of opinions, it's impossible to figure out."

To help figure it out, KSL News contacted labor and employment attorney Greg Saylin.


Our advice to employers is to recognize the marriages. The risk to recognize is lower than by not recognizing them.

–Greg Saylin, attorney


"Our advice to employers is to recognize the marriages," he said. "The risk to recognize is lower than by not recognizing them."

Utah-based Overstock.com is already doing this, and has been for years. CEO Patrick Byrne said failing to do so would not only hurt employee morale, but would hurt the company economically.

"How difficult it makes it to recruit high-end talent here," Byrne said. "It's just a really silly looking thing to an outsider."

For now, Scott plans to heed the legal advice and recognize any marriage certificate that comes across his desk.

"We would treat them the same as any other employee," he said.

"Until the courts decide," Saylin said, "there really isn't a clear answer in Utah."

To make matters even more complicated, tax season is rapidly approaching. As of now, these same sex couples could file joint federal tax returns but would have to file individual state returns.

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