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Utah has little more than a month to file its appeal of a judge's order that the state extend spousal benefits to same-sex couples married in Utah during a brief window when such unions were legal.

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday ordered Utah to file its appeal in the case by Monday, Sept. 22. It's a relatively quick turnaround for a case that holds more than 1,200 same-sex marriages in the balance.

The suit, Evans v. Utah, was brought by four plaintiff couples who married in the immediate aftermath of the historic Dec. 20 decision by U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby that overturned Utah's voter-approved ban on same-sex unions.

After the U.S. Supreme court halted all same-sex weddings to allow Utah an opportunity to appeal the case, the state refused to extend spousal benefits to those gay and lesbian Utahns who had married, saying the stay ensured the state could continue to operate under its previously established "status quo."

But U.S. District Judge Dale A. Kimball disagreed. He ordered Utah in May to extend the same in-state benefits to those gay and lesbian couples married in Utah as their opposite-sex counterparts receive.

The couples have yet to receive those rights, as any movement was again halted by the U.S. Supreme Court last month, pending the outcome of the state's appeal.

Utah also continues to defend its right to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman on another front.

The state asked the U.S. Supreme Court last week to take up its case for why states should be allowed to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman. It was the first state in the union to petition the high court in an attempt to revive a same-sex marriage ban, but it won't be the last.

Virginia and Oklahoma have also filed such petitions, with others expected before the nine justices reconvene in October.

Twitter: @Marissa_Jae

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