Utah Must Recognize The Same-Sex Marriages It Granted, Federal Judge Rules

The ruling is stayed for 21 days so the state can pursue an appeal. [Update on June 4: The state is appealing the ruling.]

Molly Ryan Butterworth (right) and Davida Wegner attend a rally supporting same-sex marriage at the state capitol in Salt Lake City, Jan. 10, 2014. Stringer / Reuters

WASHINGTON — The state of Utah must recognize the more than 1,000 same-sex couples who married in the state in December 2013 and January of this year, a federal judge ruled Monday.

In a case brought by the ACLU, several same-sex couples who married following the Dec. 20, 2013, ruling that the state’s ban on such marriages is unconstitutional sued the state, which has refused to recognize their marriages while the trial court ruling is stayed pending the case’s appeal.

That appeal has been heard by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which could rule at any time on the overall question of whether Utah’s marriage ban is constitutional. The ACLU challenge, on the other hand, asked specifically whether the state must recognize the marriages of the same-sex couples who married before the Supreme Court issued the stay of that ruling on Jan. 6.

In granting the preliminary injunction sought by the ACLU, U.S. District Court Judge Dale Kimball ruled Monday:

Defendants State of Utah, Governor Gary Herbert and Attorney General Sean Reyes shall immediately recognize the marriages by same-sex couples entered pursuant to Utah marriage licenses issued and solemnized between December 20, 2013, and January 6, 2014, and afford these same-sex marriages all the protections, benefits, and responsibilities given to all marriages under Utah law.

Despite the judge’s language of “immediately,” however, Kimball is putting the order on hold for 21 days so the state can “pursue an emergency motion to stay with the 10th Circuit.”

update

In a statement about the ruling, Attorney General Sean D. Reyes said, “The Attorney General’s Office has not made an immediate determination about whether it will appeal Judge Kimball’s ruling. According to the Court, this decision directly relates to the same-sex marriages that took place within the 17-day window and not the ultimate legal questions in Kitchen vs. Herbert. We are currently assessing the legal impact of today’s decision and will respond within the 21-day allotted time period.”

The director of communications for Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, Marty Carpenter, also issued the following statement: “We are currently reviewing the decision issued today by U.S. District Court Judge Dale Kimball.The ruling was issued with a 21-day Stay to allow the state to determine how to proceed and we are evaluating the options and how this decision may relate to the status of other pending same-sex marriage cases.”

update

In a filing with the trial court on June 4, the Attorney General’s Office announced it will be appealing the ruling: “Defendants State of Utah, Governor Gary Hebert, in his official capacity, and Attorney Sean Reyes, in his official capacity, (collectively referred to as “the State”) hereby appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit from the Memorandum Decision entered on May 19, 2014.” The filing was first noted by Equality Case Files.

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