U.S. District Judge Judge Dale A. Kimball said in a written ruling that Governor Gary Herbert and Attorney General Sean Reyes cannot retroactively void those marriages.
Around 1,300 gay and lesbian couples were married in Utah between December 20, 2013 when Judge Robert Shelby overturned the state's ban on same-sex marriage and January 6 when the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay, halting further marriages pending an appeal of the Kitchen vs. Herbert case in int he 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.
"There's really no question that the 1,300 same sex couples who married in late December and early January were lawfully married in the State of Utah," University of Utah Law Professor an Equality Utah Board Chairman Clifford Rosky told ABC 4 Utah. "Utah law is very clear. When you get married, more than 500 rights vest. Property rights, custody, inheritance. All sorts of right and as Judge Kimball explained today, those marriages are valid and must be recognized in the state of Utah."
Judge Kimball's order takes effect in 21 days, giving the Utah Attorney General's Office time to appeal the ruling. In a written statement, Governor Herbert's Director of Communications Marty Carpenter said "We are currently reviewing the decision issued today.....we are evaluating the options and how this decision may relate to the status of other pending same-sex marriage cases."
A ruling could come soon from the 10th Circuit Court on Judge Shelby's decison and according to Rosky, that would resolve this case as well.
Many Utahns were angered by Judge Kimball's decision. Bill Duncan of the Sutherland Institute issued at statement, reading "Today's decision is disappointing because it rewards judicial overreaching. There's nothing in the United States Constitution that allows courts to mandate same-sex marriage on the states, but one judge was able to do just that by issuing a novel ruling and then forcing the state to put it into effect before the court of appeals could correct any legal errors in that decision. Our system is weaker when judicial gamesmanship is not kept in check. We trust the 10th Circuit will do that quickly."
Gov. Gary Herbert issued a statement on the ruling Monday saying that his office was looking at its options.
"We are currently reviewing the decision issued today by U.S. District Court Judge Dale Kimball," the statement reads. "The ruling was issued with a 21-day stay to allow the state to determine how to proceed and we are evaluating the options and how this decision may relate to the status of other pending same-sex marriage cases."