U.S. Supreme Court

Utah asks Supreme Court to uphold its same-sex marriage ban

Corrected: Utah announced on Wednesday that it will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse a recent decision by the 10th Circuit and uphold its same-sex marriage ban.

According to the Associated Press, the state’s attorney general will not seek an en banc review from the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at Denver. Instead, the state will appeal directly to the Supreme Court a June 25 ruling from a three-judge panel of the 10th Circuit finding that the ban on same-sex marriages was unconstitutional.

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes’ office said in a statement that the state would file its appeal in Kitchen v. Herbert within the coming weeks in order to get “clarity and resolution” on the law.

The state’s same-sex marriage ban was originally struck down by U.S. District Court Judge Robert Shelby in December as unconstitutional. After thousands of same-sex couples in Utah applied for marriage licenses in the wake of Shelby’s decision, the state asked the 10th Circuit for an emergency stay to prevent more licenses from being issued. The appellate court refused, but the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately issued the stay in early January. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced shortly afterwards that the marriages of the nearly 1,300 couples who wed before the stay was issued would be recognized by the federal government.

When the three-judge panel from the 10th Circuit heard the case on its merits, they issued a 2-1 opinion (PDF) stating that “the Fourteenth Amendment protects the fundamental right to marry, establish a family, raise children, and enjoy the full protection of a state’s marital laws” and that a state “may not deny the issuance of a marriage license to two persons, or refuse to recognize their marriage, based solely upon the sex of the persons in the marriage union.”

The 10th Circuit placed its own ruling on hold, pending an appeal.

Whether or not the Supreme Court will decide to hear the case has yet to be determined. According to the AP, there’s a high profile same-sex marriage case pending before the 4th Circuit, as well as cases in Idaho, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Nevada and Tennessee.

“My best guess it that the court will hang onto this for a while and see what happens,” said Douglas NeJaime, a University of California, Irvine law professor, to the AP. “There are so many cases now, it will have a pick.”

If the Supreme Court takes the Utah case, it would be the first same-sex marriage case the court has heard since 2013, when it handed down rulings concerning California’s Proposition 8 in Hollingsworth v. Perry and the Defense of Marriage Act in U.S. v. Windsor.

Updated on July 16 to correct the name of the U.S. Supreme Court case Hollingsworth v. Perry.


Updated on July 16 to correct the name of the U.S. Supreme Court case Hollingsworth v. Perry.

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