SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Four gay couples have asked a federal appeals court to reverse a decision allowing Utah to delay recognizing their marriages.
The delay creates an “enormous hardship” for the couples and keeps them in an “indefinite period of limbo” without the legal benefits of marriage, attorneys for the couples argued in court documents Friday afternoon.
The couples were among 1,000-plus who wed over 17 days in late December and early January after a judge struck down the state’s 2004 same-sex marriage ban. The
On Thursday, the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted Utah’s request to delay a ruling that ordered state officials to recognize the marriages next week.
Gov. Gary Herbert and state Attorney General Sean Reyes, both Republicans, have appealed that ruling to the Denver court.
They argue the marriages shouldn’t be recognized until that case and a broader legal fight over Utah’s same-sex marriage ban are settled.
The appeals court must next choose whether to lift or extend the temporary delay to recognize the marriages already performed.
The marriages stopped when the U.S. Supreme Court stayed the ruling that overturned the state’s ban, pending an appeal now before the 10th Circuit. That court has heard arguments, and a ruling is expected soon.
The American Civil Liberties Union in Utah, which brought the lawsuit on behalf of the four couples, believes the marriages are legal regardless of how the courts rule on the ban.
In May, U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball ruled in their favor, finding that the state’s decision to freeze benefits for matters such as child custody and medical decisions was harming the couples.
Kimball gave Utah 21 days to decide whether to appeal, and state officials waited until the very end of that window to do so, ACLU attorneys argue.
“This Court should not reward Defendants’ decision to sit on their hands for over two weeks and then seek a last-minute extension of the stay based on time constraints that their own delay created,” attorneys wrote.
The ACLU said Kimball’s decision conforms to previous court rulings and should stand.
The organization also reiterated its argument that no matter what the 10th Circuit decides on the constitutionality of Utah’s ban, the marriages that took place during the 17-day window are valid.
“There is no such thing as an ‘interim marriage,‘” the ACLU said.
In a statement Thursday, Reyes said he recognized the burden on the families stuck in the uncertain legal landscape. But he said the state believes it’s best to wait for higher courts to rule on the ban.
Follow Michelle Price at https://twitter.com/michellelprice .
Associated Press writer Brady McCombs contributed to this report.