Federal Judge Requires Utah to Recognize December 2013 Same-Sex Marriages

Same-sex couples and their families wait for marriage licences at the Salt Lake County Clerks Office Friday night.
Same-sex couples and their families wait for marriage licences at the Salt Lake County Clerks Office Friday night.

In a press release sent Monday afternoon, the ACLU of Utah announced that Judge Dale A. Kimball required the temporary recognition of the thousands of same-sex marriages performed last December after Judge Robert Shelby struck down Utah’s Amendment 3 to the state constitution that allowed marriage between only a man and a woman.

“The State,” Kimball wrote, “has placed Plaintiffs and their families in a state of legal limbo with respect to adoptions, child care and custody, medical decisions, employment and health benefits, future tax implications, inheritance, and many other property and fundamental rights associated with marriage. These legal uncertainties and lost rights cause harm each day that the marriage is not recognized.”

The announcement comes on the heals of the Utah Supreme Court announcing that it would place a temporary halt to the practice of granting same-sex adoptions to couples married during the three week window when marriage certificates were granted in the state.

Though the denial of same-sex adoptions is related to the Amendment 3 suit, Kimball’s injunction is not in regards to the controversial 2004 law.

“Our clients, like over 1,000 other same-sex couples, were legally married and those marriages cannot now be taken away from them,” said John Mejia, legal director of the ACLU of Utah. “While we await a permanent decision, we are relieved that our clients will receive the full recognition they deserve as lawfully married couples.”

The ACLU sees this as a sign of further victories down the road saying “Today’s preliminary injunction is not a permanent order, but it reflects the court’s determination that the plaintiffs’ are likely to prevail on their legal claims and would suffer irreparable harm if their marriages were stripped of recognition.”

Kimball’s decision is a temporary one, lasting only 21 days but will provide legal breathing room to those seeking full legal rights and privileges in regards to marriage. The legal injunction allows the state equal time to prepare a response.

Update: The Attorney General’s office issued the following statement: “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.”

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