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Judge: Utah must honor same-sex marriages performed during 17-day window

Decision takes effect in 21 days, allowing Utah attorney general’s office time to appeal.

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"I hope they don’t," Strindberg said. "I hope the state sees that we have a very strong opinion here saying that these couples have vested rights under state laws and the U.S. Constitution. There are better ways to spend our tax money."

Judge Kimball, a Brigham Young University alumnus who was nominated to the federal bench in 1997 by President Bill Clinton, based a significant part of his ruling on a similar case that reached the California Supreme Court in 2008 and answered the question of whether more than 18,000 same-sex California marriages would be nullified by Proposition 8, which banned same-sex unions in the state.

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In that case, the state supreme court found that rights legally granted to citizens cannot retroactively be taken away when law changes.

The judge also cited a case more than 120 years old that asserted vested rights associated with marriage stand "independent of the change in the law" as a "fundamental principle of basic fairness."

The stay imposed by the U.S. Supreme Court on Jan. 6 — halting any further marriages and reverting the state to its "status quo" of banning gay and lesbian unions — does not apply to the couples who were issued licenses by Utah county clerks, the judge wrote.

The state has argued that couples who rushed clerk offices in the wake of Shelby’s landmark ruling acted "unreasonably;" the judge noted the state also adhered to Shelby’s order by telling its clerks to comply.

"The state notified its county clerks that they were required to issue marriage licenses," he wrote. "The state now seems to be claiming that while it reasonably required its county clerks to act in response to the [same-sex marriage] decision, plaintiffs unreasonably acted on the same decision."

State Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, called on the attorney general to "stop spending millions of Utah tax dollars on wasteful, message lawsuits designed to degrade and hurt LGBT families all across Utah."

Dabakis, who is openly gay, was married to his partner in the 17-day window after Shelby’s historic ruling.

"As the only member of the Utah Senate whose spouse is refused state health care benefits, resulting from Governor Herbert’s order putting all legal, same-sex Utah marriages ‘on hold,’ I applaud Judge Kimball’s decision," Dabakis wrote. "And I urge the governor to respect the rule of law and withdraw his ‘hold’ on the dozens of Utah state employees affected as well as the hundreds of other married Utah couples."

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The Sutherland Institute, a conservative think tank, released the following statement calling Kimball’s decision "disappointing" and "judicial overreaching."

"There’s nothing in the United States Constitution that allows courts to mandate same-sex marriage on the states, but one judge was able to do just that by issuing a novel ruling and then forcing the state to put it into effect before the court of appeals could correct any legal errors in that decision," wrote Bill Duncan, the institute’s director of its Center for Family and Society. "Our system is weaker when judicial gamesmanship is not kept in check."


Twitter: @Marissa_Jae

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