This afternoon, a federal judge in Utah ordered the state to recognize the legal marriages of same-sex couples who wed during the brief window between another federal judge striking down the state's marriage discrimination amendment and the U.S. Supreme Court putting a hold on that ruling during the state's appeal.
Up until this point, the state of Utah -- led by the viciously anti-gay Republican Governor Gary Herbert -- has maliciously and arbitrarily refused to recognize the marriages.
A three-week stay has been placed on today's ruling to give the state time to respond.
The ACLU reports, via press release:
"Our clients, like over 1,000 other same-sex couples, were legally married and those marriages cannot now be taken away from them," said John Mejia, legal director of the ACLU of Utah. "While we await a permanent decision, we are relieved that our clients will receive the full recognition they deserve as lawfully married couples."
Today's preliminary injunction is not a permanent order, but it reflects the court's determination that the plaintiffs are likely to prevail on their legal claims and would suffer irreparable harm if their marriages were stripped of recognition. Today's order was given a 21-day stay to allow the state to respond.
In his ruling, Judge Dale A. Kimball wrote: "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."
"We are grateful that the court has stepped in to prevent the state from stripping recognition from legally valid marriages that have already taken place," said Joshua Block, staff attorney with the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project. "The court's decision allows these committed couples to move forward with their lives with the same protections and security as any other married couples."
Despite the stay, this ruling was correctly decided. Governor Herbert should not -- and indeed, does not -- have the power to unilaterally pick and choose which legal Utah marriages the state will actually recognize.