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Advocacy groups mobilize to support married, same-sex couples in Utah

Thursday, January 9, 2014
Hundreds of same-sex couples wrapped around two floors at the Salt Lake County Complex on Dec.   23 waiting to obtain marriage licenses.

Hundreds of same-sex couples wrapped around two floors at the Salt Lake County Complex on Dec. 23 waiting to obtain marriage licenses.

LGBT advocacy groups on Thursday began mobilizing efforts in response to Utah governor Gary Herbert’s announcement Wednesday that the state was putting “on hold” the recognition of same-sex unions performed after a federal judge ruled against Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage.

The U.S. Supreme Court decided on Monday to bring a temporary halt to the marriages until the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals considers the long-term question of whether same-sex couples have a right to wed in Utah.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) said Thursday was joining in the appeal as co-counsel for the plaintiff couples.

The case was brought by three same-sex couples in Utah: Derek Kitchen and Moudi Sbeity; Karen Archer and Kate Call; and Laurie Wood and Kody Partridge.

On Dec. 20, U.S. District Court Judge Robert J. Shelby ruled that Utah’s ban on marriage by same-sex couples violates the U.S. Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection and due process of law. The Tenth Circuit has ordered an expedited briefing schedule, with briefing to be completed by February 25, 2014.

Also Thursday, the ACLU of Utah said it is gathering clients whose marriages are now not recognized by Utah for a potential class action lawsuit.

The group has sent a letter to state Attorney General Sean Reyes arguing that the same-sex marriages performed in Utah between Dec. 20 and Jan. 6 are legal, and should remain valid.

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“They have the same rights, protections and obligations as any other couple in Utah and they deserve to have their marriages respected and recognized,” said John Mejia, ACLU of Utah Legal Director.

And in a separate letter obtained by The Associated Press, the Human Rights Campaign asked U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to allow married same-sex couples in Utah to receive federal benefits.

The HRC also called on the 18 states where same-sex marriages are recognized to extend that recognition to the more than 1,300 gay and lesbian couples who entered into legal marriages in Utah.

The actions come one day after Herbert instructed state agencies to hold off on processing any new benefits for the newly-married couples.

Associated Press contributed to this report.
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