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Utah asks U.S. Supreme Court to halt same-sex marriages

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Posted at 2:42 PM, Dec 31, 2013
and last updated 2013-12-31 18:03:52-05

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Attorney General’s Office filed a request with the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday, asking the nation’s top court to halt same-sex marriages in the state.

“Every marriage performed uniting persons of the same sex is an affront to the sovereignty of the State and to the democratically expressed will of the people of Utah,” wrote Monte Stewart of the Idaho-based Marriage Law Foundation, outside counsel hired by the state to help it appeal a federal judge’s ruling, striking down Amendment 3.

On Dec. 20, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Shelby overturned Utah’s Amendment 3, which defines marriage as solely between a man and woman, saying it violated gay and lesbian couples’ due process and equal protection rights under the U.S. Constitution.

Hundreds of same-sex couples have legally married in Utah since that ruling.

Utah attempted four times to obtain a stay from the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to halt the marriages, which was denied. This is the fifth attempt, asking U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor to grant a stay.

In the filing, Stewart wrote that allowing same-sex marriages to allow the courts to decide Amendment 3 at an appellate level. He also wrote of the problems of having to undo the marriages should the state win on appeal.

“A stay is urgently needed to preserve these prerogatives pending appeal and, if necessary, this Court’s ultimate review, and to minimize the enormous disruption to the State and its citizens of having to potentially “unwind” thousands more same-sex marriages should this Court ultimately conclude, as the State strongly maintains, that the district court’s judgment and injunction exceed its constitutional authority,” he wrote.

Justice Sotomayor could decide whether to grant or reject the application for a stay. She could also ask the full U.S. Supreme Court to consider the request.

Late Tuesday, Justice Sotomayor asked the plaintiffs (the couples who sued to overturn Amendment 3) to respond to Utah’s request for a stay by noon EST on Friday.

In an email to FOX 13, James Magleby, an attorney for the gay couples who sued over Amendment 3, wrote: “aside from the lack of merit to the State’s request to SCOTUS for a stay, the Tenth Circuit has already established a rare, expedited briefing schedule on these issues, and hundreds of same-sex couples have already been married in Utah; thus, there is no emergency need for a stay.”

Magleby went on to criticize Utah for spending as much as $2 million to fight the Amendment 3 ruling.

“We are disappointed that the State of Utah will spend millions of dollars in taxpayer’s money, to attempt to reinstate laws which deny due process and equal protection to all of Utah’s citizens,” he wrote in the emailed statement.

“It doesn’t have to be this way. The State of Utah should carefully consider its other options, in particular the fiscally responsible decision by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, to save his state from further legal expenditures and to put a divisive issue in the past, by deciding not to pursue an appeal from an analogous ruling.”

Read the state’s filing with the U.S. Supreme Court here.

Also on Tuesday, the Utah Attorney General’s Office put out a request for bids for outside counsel as it appeals the Amendment 3 ruling to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court, if necessary.

The request includes fee caps for the counsel and a clause that gives chief deputy Utah Attorney General Brian Tarbet the ability to terminate the contract “for convenience.” The deadline for law firms to apply is Jan. 7.

Read the RFP for outside counsel here.

Related stories:

Thousands attend ‘Restore Our Humanity’ rally to support same-sex marriage

Confusion at county clerk’s office after Utah’s same-sex marriage ban struck down

Some Utah counties still won’t issue same-sex marriage licenses

Utah County begins issuing same-sex marriage licenses