SALT LAKE CITY – Late Thursday, the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals granted the state’s request to stay Judge Kimball’s May 19 ruling, which ordered the state to recognize same-sex marriages that were performed during a 17-day window. Same-sex couples suing the state were given until next Thursday to respond.
Thursday, the Utah Attorney General’s Office requested a stay and filed a notice of appeal with the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in response to a May 19 ruling handed down by U.S. District Judge Dale A. Kimball in Evans v. State of Utah. The ruling ordered the state to recognize all same-sex marriages performed during a 17-day period last December, after U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby ruled that Utah’s same-sex marriage ban was unconstitutional.
In a statement released Thursday, Attorney General Sean Reyes said:
Although the state recognizes the deep burden placed on families who must continue to wait for a final decision regarding their rights and those of their children, any decision by the highest courts that results in undoing what the district court has granted could be more disruptive than awaiting certainty and finality.
Reyes said the district court understood the complexity and intricacy of legal issues surrounding the ruling and allowed 21 days for measured consideration of implementation or appeal.
“We have carefully weighed and researched all options, including the viability of recognizing only those marriages performed during the 17-day window, but cannot ignore the fact that Evans v. Utah and Kitchen v. Herbert are inseparably intertwined,” Reyes said.
The position of the Utah Attorney General’s Office, according to the press release, is that Judge Kimball’s decision could be impacted, individually or collectively, by the Kitchen case, the 10th Circuit appeal in the Evans case regarding federal law, or a decision regarding state law by the Utah Supreme Court relating to Evans and other cases.
“Those of us working on the case take no pleasure in prolonging the legal process,” Reyes said, “but to immediately recognize benefits or marriages performed during the 17-day period is premature pending the outcomes of these other decisions.”
Reyes added that an immediate decision by the U.S. Supreme Court on all the issues in question, were that possible, would be welcomed by the state. In the meantime, the state will continue considering every avenue that could expedite the legal process, at the same time asking the courts to stay any further action until the ultimate questions regarding marriage recognition and the constitutionality of Utah law have been answered with finality.
“The state looks forward to the day when these issues are resolved and Utah, along with its citizens, have certainty and a clear understanding of the law,” Reyes said.
Gov. Gary Herbert’s office also released a statement Thursday regarding the stay request and notice of appeal.
“The governor has worked closely with the attorney general in analyzing all options,” the statement said. “With so many cases stemming from the same legal questions, it is important that clarity and finality are provided by the highest courts.”
In response to the appeal of Kimball’s ruling, the Utah Pride Center released the following statement Thursday:
“We can’t believe Governor Herbert and Attorney General Reyes are choosing to defend discrimination and persecute Utah families. 1,300 couples were legally married, and now the state wants courts to invalidate those marriages. Taking away the rights and protections lawfully granted to these couples and families prolongs the uncertainty they have been forced to endure. Federal judges across the nation, including two of our own local judges, have all spoken with one voice; discrimination is wrong. It’s time for our Governor and Attorney General to share that sentiment.”
Updated June 5, 5:40 p.m.
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