SALT LAKE CITY — More than 1,000 same-sex married couples in Utah will have to wait longer for state benefits after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Friday that state officials don’t have to recognize the marriages until their appeal is heard.
The couples were wed during a 17-day stretch in December when same-sex marriages were legal before the nation’s highest court put the practice on hold. They had been set to get benefits starting Monday.
The Supreme Court’s order doesn’t apply to any other states, but it could foretell how the high court would deal with similar situations elsewhere, said Douglas NeJaime, a University of California, Irvine, law professor. Hundreds of other gay couples also married in Michigan, Wisconsin and Indiana after state bans were struck down and before those rulings were put on hold.
The order from the high court does not, however, reveal anything about how the justices might eventually rule on the overarching issue of the constitutionality of state gay-marriage bans, NeJaime said.
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“It’s just saying that it makes sense to keep things they are until there is a ruling on the merits,” NeJaime said.
This case regarding state benefits for the Utah couples is separate from the ongoing judicial review of the constitutionality of the state’s same-sex marriage ban. In that case, the 10th Circuit recently upheld the December opinion from a federal judge in Utah who overturned the ban. Utah state officials plan to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Utah’s same-sex marriage ban was struck down in December. Utah officials froze benefits for the couples, arguing it had no choice but to hold off until an appeals court ruled on same-sex marriage.
In related developments Friday:
• For the second time in less than two months, a federal appeals court panel in Denver upheld same-sex marriage, giving gay couples another victory en route to a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court. In a 2-1 decision, a three-judge panel of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Oklahoma’s ban on gay marriage and followed much of the reasoning it used when it struck down Utah’s ban last month.
• Colorado’s Supreme Court ordered the Denver County clerk to stop issuing marriage licenses to gay couples while the state’s ban against the unions remains in place. The ruling noted that a judge who ruled that the state’s ban on same-sex unions was unconstitutional put his decision on hold pending appeal, meaning the definition of marriage approved by Colorado voters in 2006, as between one man and one woman, remains active.