Utah may get involved in SCOTUS same-sex marriage cases

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SALT LAKE CITY -- The state of Utah may get involved in the cases before the U.S. Supreme Court on same-sex marriage.

The federal solicitor for the Utah Attorney General's Office said the state would likely file an amicus brief in support of a state's right to define marriage as it sees fit, but no decision has been made.

"I'd say likely just means we obviously were litigating it before, we're surprised the Supreme Court didn't take (Amendment 3) in the first place," Parker Douglas told FOX 13.

Any decision on whether the state would file an amicus would be weeks away, the Utah Attorney General's Office said.

Douglas said that as a matter of practicality, same-sex marriage is settled law in Utah. However, if the U.S. Supreme Court rules in favor of a state's right to define marriage, new litigation could be triggered over recognizing existing marriages.

"It'll have national implications, because there will be litigation about it. But a lot of that will depend on how broadly the decision is, one way or another," Douglas said.

In a statement to FOX 13, Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes said:

"We are pleased that the Supreme Court of the United States has chosen to grant Certiorari, review briefs and hear arguments regarding a state's authority to define marriage and that this process will provide all citizens with clarity and resolution on an issue of such importance."

Utah's appeal of a federal judge's ruling striking down Amendment 3 (which defined marriage as between a man and a woman and doesn't recognize anything else) was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court last year. That led to same-sex marriage becoming legal in Utah.

A "friend of the court" brief is the best Utah can do, considering its case was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court. Still, supporters and opponents of same-sex marriage weighed in on the significance of the case.

"I think it's fantastic. It's about time," Amendment 3 plaintiff Moudi Sbeity told FOX 13.

Sbeity and his fiancee, Derek Kitchen, were among the couples who sued Utah for the right to marry. It was their case, Kitchen v. Herbert, that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Taking note of all the states that have struck down same-sex marriage bans since Utah's case, Sbeity said he was confident the high court would rule in favor of the rights of LGBT couples.

"This can only go one way," he said.

Kody Partridge was also a plaintiff in the Kitchen case, and she spoke Friday about the new development.

"I just do not think we are a nation that, once a right has been given, it then is capricious and takes that right away," she said. "...I just am hopeful that the freedom to marry will exist as the law of the land."

Others in Utah expressed confidence the Supreme Court would side with the states.

"We have a constitutional amendment that says marriage is just between a man and a woman, and when the Supreme Court sends it back to the states obviously then that will still be in place, and marriage will once again be between just a man and a woman," said Gayle Ruzicka, President of the Utah Eagle Forum.

Bill Duncan, Director of Family and Society at the Sutherland Institute, also weighed-in.

"It's good news anytime we're allowed to--the people of the states--are allowed to make their case to the Supreme Court and not just be ignored," he said. "Previously they said, 'We won't even hear you', and now at least we have the chance to be heard and that's an important step forward."

Governor Gary Herbert was also happy with the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to take up the Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio and Michigan cases. He said in a statement:

"As I have said all along, I believe states should have the right to determine their own laws regarding marriage and I am pleased the U.S. Supreme Supreme Court has decided to hear the same-sex marriage case. The people of Utah, and people across the country, deserve certainty and finality with respect to the law. In this case, that finality can only come from the nation's highest court.”

"As this case progresses, I once again encourage all Utahns - regardless of their personal views on this matter - to treat each other with respect."

Here's some other statements given to FOX 13 reacting to the U.S. Supreme Court's decision:

"Sutherland Institute is encouraged that the Supreme Court is finally going to take the opportunity to correct the mistakes of so many federal courts that have said that the states are not free to define marriage as they always have. We hope that the Supreme Court will take seriously the child-centered purposes of marriage and the rights of voters to choose for themselves the kinds of laws that will govern them."

-Bill Duncan, director of Sutherland Institute's Center for Family & Society

“This is a defining moment for gay Americans. All gay and lesbian couples deserve the freedom to marry who they love. We look forward to the Supreme Court determining once and for all that LGBT Americans do enjoy equal protections under the law.”

-Troy Williams, executive director, Equality Utah

 The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which filed amicus briefs in support of states, declined to comment on the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to hear the cases.