Same-sex couples who married in Utah may be eligible for spousal benefits in just 10 days as a result of a court ruling Friday.
The ruling, from the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, denied Utah's request to permanently hold off on recognizing same-sex marriages performed in the state, according to The Salt Lake Tribune. Utah had wanted to wait to recognize the marriages — and therefore also wait to give couples the legal benefits that come with marriage — while it appeals its same sex marriage case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
A federal judge struck down Utah's ban on same-sex marriage in December.
The ruling, from U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby, found that the state's ban was unconstitutional because it denied "gay and lesbian citizens their fundamental right to marry and, in so doing, demean the dignity of these same-sex couples for no rational reason." The ruling opened up a 17-day window during which more than 1,000 same-sex couples married in Utah.
The window closed on orders of the U.S. Supreme Court, which decided in January that the marriages must stop while the case was appealed.
Utah vowed to fight the ruling that struck down it's same-sex marriage ban, but was ordered in May to recognize the marriages in the meantime.
A ruling issued in May from U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball ordered the state to recognize the same-sex marriages that took place during the window in which they were legal. Kimball's ruling also ordered the state to give the couples "all the protections, benefits and responsibilities given to all marriages under Utah law."
However, Kimball gave Utah 21 days to file an appeal. During those 21 days the state was not required to honor the marriages or extend benefits to the couples.
Last month, a federal appeals court put a temporary hold on the marriages, giving the state a little more time before it had to recognize them.
The hold — which effectively extended the 21-day period created by Judge Kimball — came after Utah announced that it would appeal the order to recognize the marriages while the case worked its way through the courts. After Utah announced it would appeal, the federal court gave the couples who filed the case time to respond.
However, Utah wanted to to make the hold permanent while the case is appealed. That would have meant that the same-sex marriages performed in Utah wouldn't have to be honored until the case was settled.
Friday's ruling means that the temporary hold issued in June will not be permanent, at least for now.
Utah can now ask the Supreme Court to make the hold permanent, but if that fails the temporary hold expires July 21. After that point, married same-sex couples in Utah could apply for in-state benefits.
Friday's ruling states that Utah had not "made sufficient showings to warrant a stay pending appeal."
After the ruling came out Friday, the Utah Attorney General's office said it would indeed take the matter to the U.S. Supreme Court, the Associated Press reports.
Utah's same-sex marriage case is still far from settled.
Friday's development means that married same-sex couples in Utah may be one step closer to getting benefits. However, the issue of whether or not Utah's ban on same-sex marriage is constitutional or not is yet to be settled. The Utah Attorney General's Office plans to take the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.