Utah is set to become the 19th state in the country to offer online marriage licenses for same-sex couples.
State officials say they’re hopeful the new policy will provide more flexibility for couples seeking to wed in Utah, where same-day marriage is illegal.
The Utah state attorney general said in a statement Friday that the new system will allow for more flexibility and will help ensure the integrity of Utah’s marriage laws.
It also will allow gay couples to marry and the adoption of children.
The decision comes as Utah has seen a sharp decline in same-gender marriages, with fewer than 1,000 same- and opposite-sex marriages performed in 2015.
The number has remained relatively steady since then.
But in 2016, Utah passed a bill that allows for same sex marriages in private ceremonies in churches and other places of worship.
In 2017, a similar law was passed, but the state Supreme Court ruled the law unconstitutional.
The new policy allows couples to legally wed in private religious ceremonies without the need to seek permission from a government entity.
Marriage license applicants and business owners who want to get a license will need to fill out an online application and submit a form that details the services they offer to their customers, such as health insurance, insurance plans and wedding licenses.
Once the application is submitted, the clerk of the circuit court will review the forms and issue a marriage license to the person applying.
A marriage license can be issued after the clerk has reviewed the forms.
The attorney general’s office says the new online system will also simplify the process for those who want a religious license to solemnize same- or opposite-gender ceremonies.
The department of revenue is recommending that the Utah Legislature amend the state’s marriage code to provide for the issuance of marriage licenses in private, same-dignity ceremonies.
In a statement, state Sen. Chris Stewart, R-Salt Lake City, said the new marriage license policy will allow couples to enjoy their marriage, and “not lose the fundamental right to be able to marry.”
In response to the news, the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah urged Utah lawmakers to keep the state law on the books.
The ACLU’s Executive Director Adam Greenfield called on lawmakers to “end discriminatory policies that make marriage an unequal institution for everyone, including LGBT people.”
Utah’s decision is a first in the nation, but it’s just one of several states across the country that are considering online marriage services.
The move comes as many states have banned same-date and same-woman marriages.