Utah asks Supreme Court to stay same-sex marriage ruling

Michael DoyleMcClatchy Newspapers

Utah went to the Supreme Court on New Year's Eve, asking justices to block for now a trial judge's ruling striking down the state's ban on same-sex marriage.

In a legal package that, with appendices, spanned 101 pages, Utah asserted that there is "a certainty of irreparable harm" if the high court doesn't put a stay on the earlier ruling by U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby.

In a 53-page opinion on Dec. 20, Shelby concluded the state's ban on same-sex marriages violated the constitutional guarantees of equal protection.

"Numerous same-sex marriages are now occurring every day in Utah," the state's newly filed brief states. "And each one is an affront...to the interests of the state and its citizens in being able to define marriage through ordinary democratic channels."

Utah's newly sworn-in Attorney General Sean D. Reyes, who only took office Dec. 30, is now leading the state's effort. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, though it agreed to expedite its consideration of the state's appeal, declined to put a stay on Shelby's decision.

The latest filing went to Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who handles petitions from the region including Utah. Sotomayor has the option to refer the matter to the full court; for a high-profile case like this, that seems a likely scenario.

The tenor of Utah's brief is summed up in some of the sources cited, whose titles range from "Life Without Father: Compelling Evidence that Fatherhood and Marriage are Indispensable for the Good of Children and Society" to "Why Gender Matters: What Parents and Teachers Need to Know about the Emerging Science of Sex Differences."

"Gender diversity or complementarity among parents...can provide enormous benefits to children," the brief states. 

Utah further notes that at least three Supreme Court justices have already tipped their hand concerning same-sex marriages, observing that justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito have "clearly indicated a belief that the states can constitutionally retain the traditional definition of marriage."

Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is likely to be crucial in this case, gets a notable shout-out in Utah's brief, with a pretty lengthy quote concerning the importance of federalism; that is, respect for state sovereignty.

"The district court's extraordinary decision to overturn Utah's marriage laws...places in jeopardy the democratic right of millions of Utahns to choose for themselves what marriage will mean in their community," the brief states.

Note: This is the first time Suits & Sentences has seen the word "Utahn."








Michael Doyle
McClatchy Washington Bureau