appeals court sides with gay marriage proponents in Utah
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[July 12, 2014]
By Jennifer Dobner
SALT LAKE CITY (Reuters) - A U.S. appeals
court on Friday denied Utah's bid to further block legal recognition of
about 1,300 same-sex weddings performed after the state's gay marriage
ban was briefly lifted by a federal judge in December.
But the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals also left intact an
existing temporary stay against a ruling requiring Utah to recognize
the legitimacy of those marriages, giving the state time to seek a
lengthier injunction from the U.S. Supreme Court.
Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes immediately vowed to do that in the
next few days.
U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby in Salt Lake City ruled in
December that a voter-passed law restricting marriage to
heterosexual couples only was unconstitutional, clearing the way for
same-sex couples in the socially conservative and heavily Mormon
state to wed.
But the Supreme Court in Washington reinstated the gay marriage ban
just 17 days later, issuing a stay of Shelby's ruling that halted
further gay and lesbian nuptials until Utah's appeal of that
decision had run its course.
Utah refused to confer legal recognition of gay and lesbian
marriages performed in the interim, leaving those couples unable to
proceed with adoptions, obtain spousal health insurance benefits or
legally change their names.
Four newlywed same-sex couples then filed a separate lawsuit to get
the state to recognize their marital status, winning a decision in
May from another federal judge that their marriages were valid. But
that judge also temporarily stayed his own ruling to let Utah
petition for a lengthier injunction pending appeal.
The 10th Circuit on Friday denied that request for a permanent
Utah argued that legal recognition for newly married same-sex
couples before the final outcome of the underlying legal battle over
gay marriage would cause greater confusion.
Were the state to prevail, Utah officials said, gay and lesbian
marriages performed last winter would be invalidated, stripping away
the benefits conferred on them.
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But the 10th Circuit said Utah failed to show irreparable harm would
result from letting already married gay couples obtain spousal
The same three-judge panel in June upheld Shelby's decision. It
marked the first time a federal appeals court had ruled on the
merits of such a case since the Supreme Court decided a year ago
that legally married same-sex couples nationwide were eligible for
Reyes said on Thursday he would appeal Shelby's ruling to the
Supreme Court rather than seek reconsideration from the full 10th
There are now 19 states, plus the District of Columbia, where
same-sex marriage is legal. In another nine states, including Utah,
federal judges have struck down bans on same-sex marriage but the
rulings have been put on hold pending appeal.
(Reporting by Jennifer Dobner in Salt Lake City; Editing by Steve
Gorman, Sandra Maler and Ken Wills)
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