Court orders Utah to recognize same-sex marriages

A federal judge is ordering the state of Utah to legally recognize about 1,300 same-sex marriages performed in the state late last year. Photo courtesy Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.

SALT LAKE CITY – A federal judge has ordered the state of Utah to legally recognize about 1,300 same-sex marriages performed in the state late last year.

The action by U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball was in response to a lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Utah, after the state had refused to recognize the marriages.

Clifford Rosky, board chairman at Equality Utah and a law professor at the University of Utah, said the ruling will restore marital and parental rights to the couples. These include filing joint tax returns, getting health insurance with a spouse and adopting children.

“With some of these couples, we have one biological parent and then, a same-sex partner who is not biologically related to the child,” Rosky said. “Unless they’re married and then they adopt in Utah, they have no legal relationship to that child at all. But in the future, God forbid something happens to the biological parent, then the child is living with a legal stranger.”

Late last year, another U.S. district judge, Robert Shelby, overturned Amendment 3, which had added language to the state constitution that defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman. The U.S. Supreme Court then granted a temporary injunction stopping same-sex marriages while the state of Utah continues its efforts to overturn Shelby’s ruling.

Rosky said he fully expects the state of Utah to appeal Kimball’s decision, which could lead to another stay and put the marriages in limbo again. Rosky said he is convinced that resolving the legality of same-sex marriage in Utah is an issue headed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“There’s a very good chance that this second case in federal court will end up piggybacking on the first one,” he said. “Both of them will have to be resolved by the United States Supreme Court, and that won’t come until June 2015.”

A spokesperson for the state of Utah issued a statement saying, “We are evaluating the options and how this decision may relate to the status of other pending same-sex marriage cases.”

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