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Court gives Utah AG 30 more days to file in same-sex marriage case

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals today granted the state of Utah’s request for 30 more days to file its appeal of a federal judge’s May 19 order that the state extend spousal benefits to same-sex couples who married in Utah during the 17 days when same-sex marriages were legal.

Judge Dale A. Kimball ruled in Evans v. State of Utah in May that “The State has placed Plaintiffs and their families in a state of legal limbo with respect to adoptions, child care and custody, medical decisions, employment and health benefits, future tax implications, inheritance, and many other property and fundamental rights associated with marriage. These legal uncertainties and lost rights cause harm each day that the marriage is not recognized.”

At the time, Kimball gave the state of Utah 21 days to appeal. The Utah Attorney General’s office missed that deadline and was admonished by the district court for “failure to comply with the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure and the Tenth Circuit Rules.” The court did, however, grant Utah an additional 10 days to reply. Utah A.G. Sean Reyes’ office appealed to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals for a stay of the decision, which that court denied on July 11. They gave the state 10 days to respond or appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, which they did July 16. Justice Sotomayor agreed to stay the decision, as she did with the Kitchen v. Herbert case in January.

An initial deadline of Sept. 22 was set for the state to file an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

On August 18, the attorney general’s office filed a motion to extend the deadline, arguing that the Utah Federal Solicitor and chief of staff, Parker Douglas, is too busy to complete the motion prior to the deadline because he’s “travelling” and the case is complex. The motion further claims that the Kitchen v. Herbert case consumed “more of counsels’ time than expected.” That case is being handled by outside counsel.

Judge Kimball noted in his May ruling that the marriages cannot be made illegal retroactively, despite a U.S. Supreme Court stay that halted same-sex weddings. “Even though the Supreme Court’s Stay Order put Utah’s marriage bans back into place, to retroactively apply the bans to existing marriages, the State must demonstrate some state interest in divesting Plaintiff’s of their already vested marriage rights. The State has failed to do so.”

The couples in the case were all married at the end of December, beginning of July after District Judge Robert Shelby declared laws and a Utah constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. Shelby was the first of many judges who have since made similar rulings since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Windsor that parts of the Defense of Marriage Act were unconstitutional. The couples are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Utah, and Strindberg & Scholnick, LLC.

Today marks the 100th day since Judge Kimball’s ruling.

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