A federal judge ruled Monday that Utah must recognize the marriages of the 1,300 gay couples who wed during the 17 days that equal marriage was legal in the state. The state appealed the December ruling striking down its ban on equal marriage, and as a result the marriages and associated benefits regarding adoption, childcare and medical decisions were put on hold.
But United States District Judge Dale Kimball ordered the state to honor those marriages, arguing that the state's decision to freeze these benefits put the couples in an unacceptable legal bind, according to a report from the Associated Press.
“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 wrote.
The legal limbo the state has created has caused and continues to cause these couples actual harm, according to Kimball's ruling. "These legal uncertainties and lost rights cause harm each day that the marriage is not recognized," he wrote.
“More than 1,300 committed couples paid their fees, were issued marriage licenses, stood before family and friends, and got married -- and the court was right to hold that they should be treated as what they are: married,” Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, said in a statement. “Many others also want to take on that legal commitment and are being denied, and the litigation continues, as must our work in Utah and nationwide. The appeals courts and the Supreme Court should rule against marriage discrimination, just as the judge did today. America is ready for the freedom to marry.”
A spokesperson for Gov. Herbert said in a statement that the state is reviewing the ruling, which goes into effect in 21 days, leaving time for an appeal.