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Marriage equality Utah: Recognition of same-sex marriages halted

Same-sex marriage supporters hold a rally outside the State Capitol in Salt Lake City.
Same-sex marriage supporters hold a rally outside the State Capitol in Salt Lake City.
George Frey/Getty Images

The same-sex marriages of more than 1,000 couples in the state of Utah remain in limbo. According to a report by the Salt Lake Tribune on Thursday, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted Utah’s request to halt the implementation of a ruling by a federal judge who ordered the state to recognize all same-sex marriages performed in the state during a brief period of time after the gay marriage ban was overturned.

The ruling means gay couples will have to wait awhile longer to gain access to many of the legal benefits of being married. Just last month, U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball was in disagreement with the state’s decision to freeze benefits of couples who were legally married in Utah before a stay was put on gay marriage. He found the freeze to be harming to the couples as it provided a roadblock in processes that include child custody, medical decisions and inheritance.

The ruling also came less than 24 hours after Gov. Gary Herbert and state Attorney General Sean Reyes announced plans to appeal Kimball’s decision that would have allowed those same-sex couples married during a brief time when gay marriage was legal to have their marriages recognized on Monday. The court will not decide whether to impose a more permanent stay on the initial December ruling that struck down the state’s 2004 gay marriage ban until an appeal is resolved.

If the appeals court denies the state’s request, the temporary stay will expire on June 12 and would allow for married same-sex couples to begin applying for spousal benefits. Although couples remain in “legal limbo” until a decision is reached either way, American Civil Liberties Union attorney John Mejia remains confident. He told the tribune, “We’re very confident we’ll prevail. The judge didn’t make any serious errors in his reasoning. As far as the state is concerned, the only error made was disagreeing with them.”

Mejia, who represents the four plaintiff couples in this case, feels the entire appeals process a waste of time and money, saying “it’s a waste of taxpayer dollars and resources, and it brings unnecessary uncertainty and disruption to the lives of these families.” Over 1,000 same-sex couples are disappointed and most certainly agree.