Same-sex couples who wed in Utah during the brief period of marriage equality in the state may see the state recognize their unions by July 21, thanks to a federal appeals court's ruling Friday.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit denied the state's request for an indefinite stay of District Judge Dale A. Kimball's order for Utah to recognize the marriages and gave state officials 10 days to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, The Salt Lake Tribune reports.
More than 1,300 same-sex couples were married in Utah after a U.S. District Court struck down the state's ban on such unions December 20 and before the Supreme Court halted the marriages 17 days later. In May, Judge Kimball ordered the state to recognize these marriages.
Now that the appeals court has declined to stay Kimball's order indefinitely, Utah officials must take their case to Supreme Court justice Sonia Sotomayor, who oversees the 10th Circuit. Attorney General Sean Reyes announced Friday that he will do just that.
"The State recognizes that pending cases regarding same-sex marriage in Utah impact the lives of many individuals and families and is diligently seeking uniform certainty through proper and orderly legal processes until Kitchen v. Herbert is resolved," said a statement issued by Reyes's office, according to the Tribune. If Sotomayor does not overrule the appeals court's Friday decision, the state must recognize the marriages, so the couples will have access to all the rights and benefits associated with legal marriage.
Meanwhile, as the question of recognition for these marriages is being decided, the fate of marriage equality in Utah overall is up in the air. In June the 10th Circuit upheld the ruling invalidating the marriage ban, and this week state officials asked the Supreme Court to decide the matter.
The Supreme Court, however, is under no obligation to take the case, and it usually focuses on cases where there have been divergent rulings by lower courts. If it does not consider the case, the district and appeals courts' rulings will stand, and marriage equality will be the law of the land in Utah.