SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The last of the Utah counties that were holding out on issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples reversed course Thursday and decided to hand out licenses to all eligible applicants.
Officials for the four holdouts - Box Elder, Utah, Piute and San Juan counties - told The Associated Press they made the decision to offer licenses to same-sex couples.
County clerks say they had little choice after an appeals court Tuesday declined to intervene and halt gay marriage. U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby ruled last week that Utah's ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional, sending gay couples rushing to clerk offices for licenses.
The state plans to take its fight against gay marriage to the U.S. Supreme Court as early as Friday while it prepares an appeal of Shelby's ruling to the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, said Ryan Bruckman, a spokesman for the Utah attorney general's office.
Bruckman has said counties could be held in contempt of federal court if they refused to comply.
The holdouts said they decided to obey Shelby's ruling despite reservations and questions about their legal liability. Utah makes it a misdemeanor for county clerks to sanction a same-sex marriage.
San Juan County Clerk Norman Johnson said "what finalized it for me" was Gov. Gary Herbert's order to state agencies to comply with Shelby's decision and change procedures for the delivery of state services. To that end, the Utah Department of Workforce Services is recognizing gay couples for food stamp and welfare benefits.
For Johnson, Herbert's directive was the "final straw," together with a refusal Tuesday by the Denver-based appeals court to stay Shelby's decision pending an appeal from state lawyers.
Johnson said he felt like he was being dragged into granting marriage licenses against the wishes of voters who have kept him in office for 14 years.
"We have no choice," Johnson said Thursday. "The scales have tipped. It's not the way I want to see things go. But the law's the law, and I accept it. It's time."
Utah Same-Sex Marriages
Utah Complies With Sax-Sex Marriage Licenses
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)
FILE - In this Friday, Dec. 20, 2013 file photo, Chris Serrano, left, and Clifton Webb embrace after being married, as people wait in line to get licenses outside of the marriage division of the Salt Lake County Clerk's Office in Salt Lake City. A federal judge on Monday, Dec. 23, 2013 is set to consider a request from the state of Utah to block gay weddings that have been taking place since Friday when the state's same-sex marriage ban was overturned. (AP Photo/Kim Raff, File)
FILE - In this Friday, Dec. 20, 2013 file photo, Chris Serrano, left, and Clifton Webb kiss after being married, as people wait in line to get licenses outside of the marriage division of the Salt Lake County Clerk's Office in Salt Lake City. The last six months of 2013 have provided a frenzy of court decisions and laws in favor of gay marriage, punctuated by a ruling in heavily Mormon Utah that has allowed hundreds of same-sex couples to wed in the last week. The U.S. Supreme Court opened the floodgates with its June ruling that overturned a 1996 ban on gay marriage, and the change has been swift. Judges in Utah, New Mexico and Ohio have all ruled in favor of gay marriage in the past week. (AP Photo/Kim Raff, File)
John Jensen, left, and his partner, Jared Resor, talk to the media after the Ogden clerk and auditor's office canceled a special Saturday opening to issue marriage licenses in Ogden, Utah, Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013. A federal judge on Friday struck down Utah's ban on same-sex marriage, saying the law violates the U.S. Constitution. (AP photo/George Frey)
FILE - In this Monday, Dec. 2, 2013 file photo, Shaun Campbell, left, and Tony Singh are congratulated by guests after their wedding at the Sheraton Waikiki in Honolulu. Hawaii became the 15th state to legalize same-sex marriage. The last six months of 2013 have provided a frenzy of court decisions and laws in favor of gay marriage, punctuated by a ruling in heavily Mormon Utah that has allowed hundreds of same-sex couples to wed in the last week. The U.S. Supreme Court opened the floodgates with its June ruling that overturned a 1996 ban on gay marriage, and the change has been swift. Judges in Utah, New Mexico and Ohio have all ruled in favor of gay marriage in the past week. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia, File)
PROVO, UT - DECEMBER 20: Raylynn Marvel (L) and Patsy Carter leave the offices of the Utah County Clerk and Auditor office after being rejected for a marriage license on July 20, 2013 in Provo, Utah. A Federal Judge on December 20, struck down Utah's ban on same sex marriage saying the law violates the U.S. Constitution. While the ban was lifted and officials were reportedly issuing licenses in Salt Lake City, officials in Provo were denying applicants. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY - OCTOBER 3: A car flies the gay pride flag in protest past the Mormon Conference center during the 179th Semi-Annual General Conference of the Mormon church on October 3, 2009 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Several thousand Mormons are gathering for two days to hear guidance from church leaders. Many gay-rights organizations have criticized the church because of its stance on Proposition 8 in California and its opposition to gay marriage. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)