The state is appealing a ruling that would require it to recognize hundreds of marriages that occurred in the days after a judge overturned Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage.
Gov. Gary Herbert and state Attorney General Sean Reyes on Wednesday filed a notice in federal court that it would appeal U.S. District Judge Dale A. Kimball’s May order that the state must treat the same-sex marriages performed in December and January the same way it treats all opposite-sex marriages.
About 1,300 same-sex couples received marriage licenses during a 17-day window that opened Dec. 20, when U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby ruled the voter-approved ban on gay marriage to be unconstitutional, and closed when the state won a stay while appealing that ruling. A ruling on the ban itself is expected any day from the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, where judges heard arguments in April on its constitutionality.
Before the U.S. Supreme Court granted a stay on the weddings Jan. 6, more than 1,000 same-sex couples had solemnized their marriages in formal ceremonies. State officials later said they would not acknowledge those marriages while its appeal on Shelby’s ruling was pending.
But Kimball on May 19 ruled those marriages are binding, entitling those couples to the rights of marriage, such as inheritance, legal protection and child custody — even if the ban ultimately is found to be constitutional, Kimball ruled.
Kimball’s ruling was to go into effect Monday, giving the state three weeks to appeal to the 10th Circuit. State officials initially expressed uncertainty as to whether they’d appeal. Reyes’ spokeswoman Missy Larsen declined to comment late Wednesday on the state’s filing, saying the office would release a statement on Thursday.
The plaintiffs’ attorney, John Mejia of the ACLU of Utah, said the state’s last-minute filing "smacks of a delay tactic."
"That doesn’t give us much time to respond [or] the 10th Circuit much time to think about it," Mejia said.
Mejia said the four couples suing the state "are disappointed."
"We had hoped that [the state] would stop on their unprecedented and ill-advised campaign, which we believe is a big waste of taxpayer dollars, to fight recognition of these marriages," Mejia said. "It’s really causing a lot of disruption and interruption in the lives of real, married couples and their families."
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