Utah Appeals Marriage Recognition Ruling

By Sunnivie Brydum

Originally published on Advocate.com June 05 2014 6:24 PM ET

Utah's Republican governor and attorney general have asked a federal appeals court to place on hold and then overturn a lower court's order requiring the state to recognize more than 1,300 same-sex marriages that took place over the 17 days where marriage equality was the law in the state. 

Last month U.S. District Judge Dale A. Kimball ruled that the state must recognize the marriages that took place in Utah starting in December 2013, when a federal court struck down the state's constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, and before the U.S. Supreme Court halted the issuance of marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples in January, while the state appealed that decision. 

Judge Kimball's ruling, ordering the state to treat those legal same-sex marriages the same as it treats opposite-sex marriages, was scheduled to go into effect Monday, reports The Salt Lake Tribune. He ruled that even if current Utah law denying marriage equality was upheld, the same-sex couples married while the law was suspended should still be eligible for all the benefits associated with state-recognized marriage, including inheritance and adoption rights. 

But Wednesday, Gov. Gary Herbert and Attorney General Sean Reyes filed a notice with the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, announcing their intent to appeal Kimball's ruling. The state filed that motion today, in a 21-page brief that argues that allowing Kimball's order to take effect would upset the "status quo" of current Utah law, which, since the January stay issued by the U.S. Supreme Court, has prohibited same-sex marriage.

The state makes reference to several other current cases regarding the legal status of marriage and adoption rights for same-sex couples in Utah, citing most frequently the decision in Kitchen v. Herbert, which overturned the state's ban on same-sex marriage and was appealed to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, where it was argued before a three-judge panel in April. Until a decision in that overarching case is finalized, the state argues, "requiring defendants to recognize plaintiff's marriages and provide marital benefits is premature and unwarranted."

The attorney representing the four newlywed same-sex couples who filed the suit seeking recognition of their marriages was incredulous, saying the state's last-minute filing "smacks of a delay tactic."

"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," John Mejia of the American Civil Liberties Union told the Tribune. "It’s really causing a lot of disruption and interruption in the lives of real, married couples and their families."