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Utah gay and lesbian couples cheer same-sex marriage ruling

Plaintiff in Utah same-sex marriage case calls court's ruling against ban 'a victory for humanity'

It was glorious news to their ears, to be sure, but for Utah's gay and lesbian couples, Wednesday's federal appeals court ruling on same-sex marriage was not a total victory.

Even though a panel of 10th Circuit Court of Appeals judges ruled that states can't ban same-sex marriages, the court immediately stayed the ruling, putting any such would-be marriages on ice.

Utah, one of the most conservative states, was expected to appeal the ruling.

Nonetheless, the couples who brought the lawsuit were thrilled by the ruling.

"This is a victory for humanity," a grinning Kate Call, one of the plaintiffs in the case, told reporters at a televised news conference in Salt Lake City. Another plaintiff, Derek Kitchen, said, “I don’t think Utah can deny same-sex couples their right [to marry] for much longer."

Plaintiffs Laurie Wood and Kody Partridge were doing yardwork when the ruling was handed down, and came back inside to messages telling them to "get down here" to celebrate, Wood told reporters.

"We will always remember [how we found out] -- and the yard looks great," Wood said.

"I just hope the stay doesn’t last too long and marriages can continue."

Her partner, Partridge, said, "We do know people who are married and have medical issues, et cetera, so we hope this stay doesn’t extend too long, and people will feel like their families, their wives, their husbands, can celebrate this victory with us."

The original same-sex marriage ruling in Utah came as a shock on Dec. 20 when U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby struck down its ban on such unions.

Hundreds of same-sex couples rushed to be married until the U.S. Supreme Court intervened and put Shelby's ruling on hold until the 10th Circuit could hear the state's appeal.

Jason Dautel, 33, and Micah Unice, 34, of Salt Lake City were among that initial rush of couples to be wed, and they cautiously embraced Wednesday's ruling.

The pair had once been Mormon missionaries and were still members of the church at the time of their wedding, but have since left the church "in large part" over its stance against the practice, Unice said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times.

"We have wanted to adopt children, we have wanted to be on each other’s insurance plans, and none of that has been possible" because of the state's marriage limbo, Dautel said.

He described Utah's legal fight as being "like a dead horse being dragged."

"We know it’s going to happen eventually, but Utah is just dragging its heels,” he said.

But Dautel and Unice, like some of the plaintiffs in the case, were excited at the possibility that Utah's same-sex marriage case could be the case taken up by the Supreme Court, potentially bringing an end to the nation's remaining bans on the practice.

“There’s also a sense of sweet irony that the state and the Mormon Church … has really propelled the case forward and brought us closer to national marriage equality," Unice said. "To everybody here in Salt Lake City, that’s exciting."

Follow @MattDPearce for national news.

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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