Utah same-sex marriages already done are valid, appeals court rules

A federal appeals court ruled late Friday that about 1,300 gay and lesbian marriages performed earlier this year must be recognized by Utah.

However, the judges stayed their order until July 21 to give the state time to file an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court for emergency action. The justices would be asked to delay recognition of those same-sex marriages until the overall constitutional issue is fully decided by the high court, a process that may not happen for a year or more.

The same appeals court late last month ruled Utah's voter approved Amendment 3 violated the equal protection rights of same-sex couples. The law currently defines marriage only between one man and one woman. A group of plaintiffs then asked the court to order the state to recognize those marriage licenses already issued in December and January.

About 1,300 same-sex couples obtained marriage licenses in the 17 days after a federal ruled on December 20 that Utah's ban was unconstitutional. Those marriages were stopped after a temporary stay was put in place by the Supreme Court. That was the issue in Friday's court action.

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