Federal Judge Dale Kimball this week ordered Governor Herbert and Attorney General Reyes to legally recognize the many same sex marriages performed in Utah during the 17 day period in which same sex marriages were legal. The court held on Monday that the state of Utah could not demonstrate a valid interest or harm in recognizing the same sex marriages as legally binding. On the other hand, the court determined the same sex couples were experiencing continuing harm by living in legal limbo over the validity of their marriages. Judge Kimball identified the many areas of family law in which same sex married couples would be harmed if the state of Utah refused to recognize their marriages, citing to issues such as adoption, custody, and receiving certain state and federal benefits.
Many were quite surprised by Judge Kimball’s strong opinion in favor of the same sex couples who petitioned the court since he is widely regarding as one of the most conservative, not to mention LDS, members of the federal bench in Utah. This could be an indication of just how strong the federal law has developed on this issue in favor of gay marriage. Judge Kimball did however throw the state of Utah a bone by staying his order for a short period of time to allow the state to seek emergency relief from the court of appeals in response.
The decision sparked outrage by some conservative groups including the Sutherland Institute which has opposed gay marriage in Utah each step of the way through the court system. Conservatives view Judge Shelby’s ruling invalidating Utah’s ban on gay marriage as overreaching and judicial activism. Progressives on the other side of the coin are celebrating the decision this week arguing legal recognition is necessary to resolve family law matters arising in this area including adoptions by gay married couples, custody issues, etc. It remains to be seen whether or not the Attorney General’s Office will file an appeal regarding this recent decision by Judge Kimball. Most legal experts believe an appeal would be futile because the state simply cannot show a harm sufficient to overcome the injunction
At Salcido Law Firm, we have been closely monitoring the gay marriage debate to provide our clients and the community at large updated information in this area. We know this topic presents strong emotions on both sides and will continue to bring an objective legal analysis of the law as it develops on this issue.