SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah has appealed a federal judge’s ruling that officials must recognize gay marriages that took place in the state after a same-sex marriage ban was overturned.
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and state Attorney General Sean Reyes, both Republicans, filed the appeal Wednesday, sending the case to the Denver-based 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.
In May, U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball said Utah’s decision to freeze benefits for gay couples put them in an unacceptable legal limbo regarding adoptions, child care and custody and medical decisions, among other issues.
“These legal uncertainties and lost rights cause harm each day that the marriage is not recognized,” Kimball wrote.
He delayed implementation of his ruling for 21 days to give Utah officials time to appeal.
The state’s appeal of that ruling prolongs the uncertainty for the 1,000-plus gay and lesbian couples who married in late December and early January after another federal judge overturned the state’s gay marriage ban, passed by voters in 2004.
That case is also pending before the Denver appellate court.
The appeals panel has heard arguments in that case and could issue a decision at any time.
Wednesday’s appeal involves a lawsuit filed in January by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of four couples, who said the state’s decision to freeze benefits for gay couples violated their rights. The ACLU has said the gay marriages performed during the 17-day window when they were legal are valid no matter what the appeals court rules.
John Mejia, legal director for the ACLU in Utah, did not immediately respond to messages Thursday morning. Meija told The Salt Lake Tribune late Wednesday night that the four gay couples are disappointed in the state’s decision.
“We had hoped that (the state) would stop on their unprecedented and ill-advised campaign, which we believe is a big waste of taxpayer dollars, to fight recognition of these marriages,” Mejia said. “It’s really causing a lot of disruption and interruption in the lives of real, married couples and their families.”
Utah officials have argued that they had no choice but to hold off on benefits until an appeals court rules on same-sex marriage.
Herbert ordered state agencies in January to hold off on any new benefits for the couples until the courts resolve the issue regarding the ban.
Agencies were told not to revoke anything already issued, such as a driver’s license with a new name, but were prohibited from approving any benefits.
The state tax commission announced, however, that newly married gay and lesbian couples can jointly file tax returns for 2013.