SALT LAKE CITY - A federal judge has ruled that the state of Utah must recognize same-sex marriages performed during a 17-day window at the end of 2013 and into the New Year.
The marriages were performed immediately following a separate ruling that struck down Utah's Amendment 3 on December 21, 2013.
More than 1,200 couples flocked to county courthouses to obtain marriage licenses after U.S. District Court Judge Robert Shelby's ruling in the Kitchen vs. Herbert case. Shelby's decision ruled that Utah's Amendment 3 - which outlawed same-sex marriage - was unconstitutional.
17 days later, the U.S. Supreme Court granted a stay on same-sex marriages, pending an appeal on the matter.
Immediately following the Supreme Court's decision, Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes announced that Utah would not recognize those unions, pending the appeal in the Supreme Court.
On Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Dale Kimball ruled in a separate case (Evans vs. Utah) that the state would have to recognize same-sex marriages performed during the 17-day window.
Kimball's ruling also stated that the marriages could not be deemed illegal retroactively, despite the Supreme Court's temporary stay.
"Governor Gary Herbert and Attorney General Sean Reyes shall immediately recognize the marriages by same-sex couples entered pursuant to Utah marriage licenses issued and solemnized between December 20, 2013, and January 6, 2014, and afford these same-sex marriages all the protections benefits and responsibilities given to all marriages under Utah law," Kimball stated in his decision.
Judge Kimball's ruling is scheduled to go into effect in 21 days, giving the state of Utah time to appeal the decision.
On January 10, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the federal government would recognize same-sex marriages performed during the Dec. 21 - Jan. 6 window - as far as federal benefits were concerned.
Utah's Amendment 3 passed in November of 2004 and was challenged in U.S. District Court, where Shelby ruled the law violated tenets of the 14th Amendment, including guarantees of due process and equal protection.
Utah state senator and former state Democratic party chair Jim Dabakis, who was married to his same-sex partner during the 127-day window - released a statement to the Clipper, saying:
"Federal Judge Dale Kimball's decision today makes it clear that the same sex marriages performed during the 17 day window of Utah marriages are lawful and hold the same force of law as any other Utah marriage. As the only member of the Utah Senate whose spouse is refused state health care benefits, resulting from Governor Herbert's order putting all legal, same sex Utah marriages 'on hold', I applaud Judge Kimball's decision. And I urge the Governor to respect the rule of law and withdraw his 'hold' on the dozens of Utah state employees affected as well as the hundreds of other married Utah couple."
Utah Governor Gary Herbert's office later issued a statement regarding Monday's developments, saying:
"We are currently reviewing the decision issued today by U.S. District Court Judge Dale Kimball.The ruling was issued with a 21-day Stay to allow the state to determine how to proceed and 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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