U.S. appeals court sides with gay marriage proponents in Utah

Sat Jul 12, 2014 1:33am EDT
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By Jennifer Dobner

SALT LAKE CITY (Reuters) - A U.S. appeals court on Friday denied Utah's bid to further block legal recognition of about 1,300 same-sex weddings performed after the state's gay marriage ban was briefly lifted by a federal judge in December.

But the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals also left intact an existing temporary stay against a ruling requiring Utah to recognize the legitimacy of those marriages, giving the state time to seek a lengthier injunction from the U.S. Supreme Court.

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes immediately vowed to do that in the next few days.

U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby in Salt Lake City ruled in December that a voter-passed law restricting marriage to heterosexual couples only was unconstitutional, clearing the way for same-sex couples in the socially conservative and heavily Mormon state to wed.

But the Supreme Court in Washington reinstated the gay marriage ban just 17 days later, issuing a stay of Shelby's ruling that halted further gay and lesbian nuptials until Utah's appeal of that decision had run its course.

Utah refused to confer legal recognition of gay and lesbian marriages performed in the interim, leaving those couples unable to proceed with adoptions, obtain spousal health insurance benefits or legally change their names.

Four newlywed same-sex couples then filed a separate lawsuit to get the state to recognize their marital status, winning a decision in May from another federal judge that their marriages were valid. But that judge also temporarily stayed his own ruling to let Utah petition for a lengthier injunction pending appeal.

The 10th Circuit on Friday denied that request for a permanent injunction.   Continued...

Lynn Herre (L) and her partner Jana Mark watch the Utah Pride Parade in Salt Lake City, Utah, June 8, 2014.  REUTERS/Jim Urquhart