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Sotomayor: Utah doesn’t have to recognize same-sex marriages—for now

Joyce Lewallen, left, married her partner of 20 years, Lecia Johnson, as Jackie Biskupski officiated on Monday, Dec. 23, 2013.(AP Photo/The Salt Lake Tribune, Francisco Kjolseth)

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor on Friday agreed to put on hold a lower-court decision ordering Utah to recognize same-sex marriages that took place during a 17-day window between December and January. She granted the state’s request to stay the ruling while it appeals to a higher federal court.

The couples were wed during the more than two weeks between the day when a federal judge issued a late-December ruling striking the state’s same-sex marriage ban and the day when the state was able to secure a Supreme Court order putting that decision’s effect on hold as it pursued an appeal. Friday’s order means that more than 1,000 same-sex couples will have to wait to take advantage of state marriage benefits.

“We are deeply disappointed by the decision to grant a stay pending appeal, but despite this setback, we are confident that when the appellate process is completed we will prevail and these lawfully married same-sex couples will once again be given the same legal protections as ever other legally married Utah couple,” said Joshua Block, a staff attorney with the ACLU, which is representing couples who sued the state for immediate recognition of their marriages.

Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes, in a statement, called the ruling “necessary to the overall process” while acknowledging the limbo it puts the same-sex couples in.

“While obtaining a clear and final decision by the highest court on all related issues is in the best interest of Utahns, we recognize that it does not make the waiting and uncertainty during that process any easier. Our internal team of attorneys have diverse personal beliefs about the issues in question, but unite in their dedication to seek final clarity and uphold Utah law,” he said.

Niraj Chokshi reports for GovBeat, The Post's state and local policy blog.



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