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A day early, ACLU files response to Utah’s stay request

Earlier this week Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States for a stay in the case of Evans v. Utah.  That story was reported by QSaltLake on July 16. Today, the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah filed their response, a day ahead of the deadline established by the Supreme Court.

The plaintiffs in Evans are asking the courts to force the state of Utah to recognize their marriages, based upon the fact that they were legal under Utah and federal law at the point into which they were entered.  They are asking for their marriages to carry with them the same legal benefits currently enjoyed by opposite-sex married couples in Utah.

In his filing, Reyes argued that the approximately 1,300 couples that entered into legal weddings between December 20, 2013 and January 6, 2014 were doing so in an attempt at “circumvention” of the Supreme Court’s stay.  He further argued that allowing those marriages to stand “has burdensome regulatory implacations and irreparable consequences for the state of Utah.”

The ACLU of Utah, representing the plaintiffs in this case, argue in response that the marriages were not an attempt at an end-run around the law, but rather the full exercise of the law as determined by the federal district court and later upheld by the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The brief, filed late today, argued that the plaintiffs in this case are not parties to the Kitchen v. Herbert lawsuit, the case that resulted in the legalization of marriage for same-sex couples during that 17 day window.  It goes on, “They are members of the public who acted in accordance with a binding federal decree, who followed the law as it currently existed, and who were fully recognized by Utah as married.  Their marriages are entitled to at least the same legal protection as provided to ordinary commercial transactions.”

The ACLU further argues that “In seeking to nullify marriages that were legal at the time they were solemnized, Defendants seek to do something that is unprecedented in our nation’s history.  The Fourteenth Amendment protects the “existing marital relationship of all legally married couples whether or not the state was constitutionally obligated to permit those couples to marry in the first instance.”

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, who upheld the decision of United States District Judge Kimball, imposed a stay on their own order that is set to expire on Monday, July 21.  If the Supreme Court rejects the stay request, Utah will be obligated to provide full recognition of the estimated 1,300 marriages that were legally solemnized between December and January.

About the author

Bob Henline

Bob Henline is the Assistant Editor of QSalt Lake Magazine, as well as a columnist and social/political activist and amateur chef.

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