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Marriage equality Utah: State ordered to recognize over 1000 gay marriages

Gay rights activists gather outside the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C. on June 26, 2013
Gay rights activists gather outside the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C. on June 26, 2013(MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)

While gay couples in the state of Oregon celebrated a ruling in favor of same-sex marriage, several couples in the state of Utah found out that their marriages would be recognized. According to the Associated Press on Monday, a federal judge ordered Utah officials to recognize more than 1,000 same-sex marriages that took place in the state immediately following a ruling overturning the state’s ban on gay marriage.

A federal judge overturned the ban on Dec. 20, ruling the voter-approved amendment as unconstitutional. Gay and lesbian couples begin marrying immediately until Jan. 6 when the Supreme Court granted an emergency stay. During that time, Utah officials argued that they had to hold off on all benefits allowed to the couples until an appeals court made a ruling on same-sex marriage.

But on Monday, U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball disagreed with the freeze, saying that couples who weren’t allowed those benefits were left at a disadvantage when it came to adoptions, childcare and custody as well as in a unacceptable legal bind when it comes to medical decision and inheritance. Kimball wrote, “These legal uncertainties and lost rights cause harm each day that the marriage is not recognized.”

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) initially filed the lawsuit in January on behalf of four couples who argued that the freeze violated their rights. Kimball agreed with his ruling but also put a 21-day stay on his decision to allow the state an opportunity to appeal the ruling to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. The ruling will have no bearing an appeal of a decision that ruled the sate’s same-sex marriage ban as unconstitutional.

Couples like Matthew Barraza and Tony Milner were happy with the decision. The ruling not only recognizes them as a couple, it recognizes them as a family as the ruling would allow Milner to be recognized as a legal parent of their 5-year-old son. Although the ruling raised their hopes, they, like many other gay couples in Utah remain cautious. There is a reason to smile in the state of Utah, but maintaining that smile is now up to a federal appeals court.