The message to Utah is simple: Enough is enough.
Same-sex marriage activist group Utah Unites for Marriage launched a petition Tuesday calling on Gov. Gary Herbert and Attorney General Sean Reyes to "stop hurting Utah families" and end the state’s "never-ending assault" on same-sex couples.
Organizers said the petition came as a direct response to the state appealing a federal judge’s order that Utah recognize the marriages of more than 1,000 same-sex couples who wed during a brief period in December and January when such unions were legal.
Last month, U.S. District Judge Dale A. Kimball became the first federal judge ever to order a state to acknowledge and honor all gay and lesbian marriages performed after the state’s ban on same-sex unions was overturned.
The state has since sought a stay from the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals — and announced its intent to go to the U.S. Supreme Court, if necessary — to halt any and all movement toward imbuing the Utah marriages of gay and lesbian couples with spousal rights.
"As we take so many steps forward on the path to marriage, Utah continues to take steps back," said Equality Utah Director Brandie Balken, a member of Utah Unites for Marriage. "It seems [Herbert and Reyes] will stop at nothing to make sure these legal marriages aren’t recognized. It’s a sad day for Utah, and a blow to these loving families."
Nearly 1,300 same-sex couples were granted marriage licenses in Utah during a 17-day window that extended from the day U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby overturned Utah’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriages to the day the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay on Jan. 6, halting the weddings.
In that time, more than 1,000 of those marriages were solemnized in a formal ceremony, making them legal and binding under Utah law, Kimball ruled.
Utah Unites for Marriage intends to hand-deliver all signatures collected to the governor and attorney general, according to a news release.
Neither Herbert nor Reyes responded to calls for comment on the campaign.
Brett Tolman, co-chair of Utah Unites for Marriage and a former U.S. attorney, said "the state’s decision to keep waging this war on Utah families is hurtful and harmful — not only to the loving, married couples whose commitments deserve to be honored by the state, but to the children involved."
The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stopgap on all marriage benefits to gay and lesbian spouses until it can rule on whether or not a stay is warranted in this case.
The court could rule any day.
Utah is also awaiting a ruling from the same appeals court in the original case that challenged — and toppled — the state’s voter-approved Amendment 3 ban on same-sex unions.
The state has argued that the two cases are inextricably linked, though Kimball ruled they should be treated and considered separately.
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