Utah to appeal gay marriage ruling to high court

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Utah has decided to go straight to the Supreme Court of the United States to argue against gay marriage, meaning the nation's highest court will have at least one same-sex marriage case on its plate when it returns in October.

The office of the Utah attorney general announced Wednesday that it would bypass a full appeals court and take the gay marriage case to the Supreme Court instead.

If the U.S. Supreme Court decides to take the case, it will be the first time the top court considers gay marriage since justices last year struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act. The high court is under no obligation to the take the case, and it could wait for rulings from one or more of the five other appellate courts with gay marriage cases pending, legal scholars say.

Utah's appeal is of a June 25 ruling from a three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, which found states cannot deprive people of the fundamental right to marry simply because they choose partners of the same sex. The panel immediately put the ruling on hold pending an appeal.

The Utah case is certain to pique the Supreme Court's interest, but the justices usually look for cases that involve split rulings from federal appeals courts, said Douglas NeJaime, a University of California-Irvine law professor.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments about Virginia's ban in early May, and a ruling is expected soon. Arguments are scheduled for August and September in two different courts for cases out of Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Nevada and Idaho.

"My best guess it that the court will hang onto this for a while and see what happens," NeJaime said. "There are so many cases now, it will have a pick."

William Eskridge, a Yale University law professor, also doesn't expect a quick decision from the high court. The Supreme Court is under no deadline to make a decision and knows other appellate decisions are coming, he said.

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes' office said in a statement the appeal will be filed in the coming weeks, to get "clarity and resolution" on the matter. The decision to go directly to the Supreme Court means a review from the entire 10th Circuit Court is off the table, no matter what the high court decides.

Gov. Gary Herbert has said the state already budgeted for a need to defend the law before the Supreme Court. It is expected to cost another $300,000 to have three outside attorneys handle the case – the same amount it cost to take the case to the federal appeals court.

The Supreme Court's landmark ruling last summer allowed married same-sex couples to receive the same federal benefits as other married people, but did not specifically address whether gay marriage is a constitutional right.

Since then, lower courts have repeatedly cited the decision when striking down gay marriage bans. The latest such ruling was Wednesday, when a state judge struck down Colorado's gay marriage ban. That ruling is on hold pending an appeal.

In the Utah case, the 10th Circuit upheld a lower court's decision that overturned a 2004 voter-approved gay marriage ban. More than 1,000 same-sex couples wed in Utah after the ban was struck down and before the Supreme Court issued a stay.

The same thing happened in Indiana, where several hundred same-sex couples married during a two-day window in June. On Wednesday, Indiana state officials said they won't recognize those marriages – the same decision Utah made.

The conservative Sutherland Institute of Utah applauded the state for appealing to the highest court, saying in a statement that it gives states the chance to "defend marriage as society's way to encourage a married mother and father for every child."

Plaintiff Moudi Sbeity called the decision to take the case to the Supreme Court "wonderful news." He and his partner, Derek Kitchen, are one of three couples who sued over Utah's gay marriage ban.

"We are one step closer toward having our families recognized in our home state," Sbeity said. "It's definitely a case our Supreme Court needs to hear. The faster we can move on this, the better for all of us."


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  1. Heritage, what Heritage? The New Age is dawning .... an experiment in disordered liberty and social fragmentation is upon us .... "Carmel City Council approved a human rights ordinance with a 4-3 vote Monday night after hearing about two hours of divided public testimony. The ordinance bans discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, among other traits. Council members Rick Sharp, Carol Schleif, Sue Finkam and Ron Carter voted in favor of it. The three council members opposing it—Luci Snyder, Kevin Rider and Eric Seidensticker—all said they were against any form of discrimination, but had issues with the wording and possible unintended consequences of the proposal." Kardashian is the new Black.

  2. Can anyone please tell me if anyone is appealing the law that certain sex offenders can't be on school property. How is somebody supposed to watch their children's sports games or graduations, this law needs revised such as sex offenders that are on school property must have another non-offender adult with them at all times while on school property. That they must go to the event and then leave directly afterwards. This is only going to hurt the children of the offenders and the father/ son mother/ daughter vice versa relationship. Please email me and let me know if there is a group that is appealing this for reasons other than voting and religion. Thank you.

  3. Should any attorney who argues against the abortion industry, or presents arguments based upon the Founders' concept of Higher Law, (like that marriage precedes the State) have to check in with the Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program for a mandatory mental health review? Some think so ... that could certainly cut down on cases such as this "cluttering up" the SCOTUS docket ... use JLAP to deny all uber conservative attorneys licenses and uber conservative representation will tank. If the ends justify the means, why not?

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