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State of Utah gets filing extension in same-sex marriage appeal

First Published      Last Updated Jan 22 2014 07:40 pm

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has given Utah more time to file its appeal challenging a lower court ruling that the state's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.

The court agreed Tuesday to extend the filing deadline by seven days, which means the state's brief is now due Feb. 3. It had been due Jan. 27.

The court also extended other deadlines, giving the plaintiffs' attorneys until Feb. 25 to file a response and the state until March 4 to submit its final arguments.

Utah had asked the court for a 10-day extension, which it said was warranted because of the importance of the case and because hiring outside counsel took longer than expected. The plaintiffs' attorneys objected to more time, saying every additional day prolongs the injustice to same-sex couples caused by the marriage ban.

On Dec. 20, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Shelby overturned Utah's Amendment 3 ban on same-sex marriages, finding it was unconstitutional.

But on Jan. 6, the U.S. Supreme Court stayed Shelby's ruling while the state appeals the ruling to the 10th Circuit Court.

During the 17-day period between the ruling and the stay, clerks in Utah's 29 counties reported issuing more than 1,300 marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

On Jan. 8, Utah announced the marriages would be frozen during its appeal to the 10th Circuit, which will likely be followed by an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

On Tuesday, the ACLU of Utah and a private law firm filed a lawsuit in state court on behalf of four same-sex couples who say Utah's decision to put recognition of their marriages on hold has created a "legal limbo" that bars them from accessing critical protections for themselves and their families.

The state's decision to freeze recognition of same-sex marriage has "reduced these unions to second-class marriages," said Erik Strindberg, of the Salt Lake City law firm Strindberg & Scholnick.

Strindberg said the lawsuit was filed in Utah's 3rd District Court in West Jordan rather than federal court because three of the four claims involve state claims.