U.S. Supreme Court meets to consider Utah same-sex marriage case

Posted at 4:53 PM, Sep 29, 2014
and last updated 2014-09-30 00:19:23-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- Moudi Sbeity and Derek Kitchen have won twice against the state of Utah, but they're asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear their case anyway.

The couple, who sued the state over its ban on same-sex marriage, told FOX 13 they would like the high court to settle the issue of marriage for the entire nation.

"We all just want a resolution to this," Kitchen said Monday. "We want to get married, and a lot of the folks who believe that Amendment 3 was right would like to know for sure what the Supreme Court thinks. So we want a speedy resolution."

On Monday, the nine justices of the U.S. Supreme Court met behind closed doors to consider cases for the next term. Utah's appeal of Amendment 3 was among seven dealing with same-sex marriage.

Last year, a federal judge in Salt Lake City ruled Amendment 3 -- which defines marriage as between a man and a woman and doesn't recognize anything else -- was unconstitutional. That decision led to more than 1,200 same-sex couples marrying in Utah until the U.S. Supreme Court intervened, granting Utah's request for a stay while it appealed.

Same-sex marriage estimates in Utah

The number of same-sex marriage licenses issued in the 17 days it was allowed in Utah, according to an analysis of public records by FOX 13.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals again ruled against Utah, stating that Amendment 3 violated gay and lesbian couples' rights under the Fourteenth Amendment.

Utah has appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, a move supported by the plaintiffs.
Parker Douglas, the federal solicitor for the Utah Attorney General's Office, said Amendment 3 is one of the clearest for the court to decide. The court has already been involved in it (granting stays), there is only the state and the plaintiffs, and the governor and attorney general's office have been unified in defending it.

"They really are just pure legal questions: Does the state have the authority to define marriage? Does it retain that after the Windsor case? Does it have the ability to recognize marriages that are only in accord with its definitions?" he told FOX 13.

It only takes four justices to grant a petition, but there is no timetable for the court to decide if it will take any same-sex marriage case. Peter Stirba, a Salt Lake City attorney who argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in 2008 (and is not connected to the Amendment 3 case) said the court moves at its own pace.

"They don't have to hear these things now. There's still some same-sex marriage bans that are going through other circuits. They could take one case, they could take three cases," he said. "Then they could completely say, 'We're not going to take any case at this point.' They have a lot of discretion."

If the court does not grant any of the same-sex marriage petitions, the decisions of the lower courts stand. Douglas said he anticipates the court will take a same-sex marriage case "earlier, rather than later."

Amendment 3 plaintiffs Moudi Sbeity and Derek Kitchen, in an interview with FOX 13.

Amendment 3 plaintiffs Moudi Sbeity and Derek Kitchen, in an interview with FOX 13.

As they wait to hear what the U.S. Supreme Court does, Sbeity told FOX 13 that he and Kitchen's wedding plans are on hold.

"We actually did want to do it this year," he said. "But we're going to wait until we are legally married. Because then it's going to feel..."

"Real," Kitchen added.