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

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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


  • Caleb Larsen

    The only thing that is an affront is spending 2 million taxpayer dollars to fight for an amendment that is so clearly unconstitutional and that your own AG cannot appeal on his own. However, that $2 million will ultimately lead to 30 other states allowing marriage equality. Ironic.

    • Eric Anderson

      Indeed, the issue will be settled once and for all…..and that’s good.

      It changes nothing. No one will consider gays “married” who didn’t before. It amounts to a “Domestic Partnership Contract”, which is only fair anyway. “Marriage” does not belong to the government, and as an institution will remain forever beyond the grasp of government. Gays have always “married” whenever they chose, and anyone who chose to accept them as “married” did so.

      What IS fair is that everyone should have the same access to workplace benefits, tax advantages, and all the other financial benefits of being “married.” All citizens are equal.

      But “married”? Whatever. I’ll never refer to a man’s “husband”, or a woman’s “wife.” I draw the line at “partner.” I charge nothing for my opinion, so feel free to ignore it.

  • Caleb Larsen

    Overwhelmingly approved not only 9 years ago, but only approved by about 40% of those registered to vote. It probably still would have passed if 100% of registered voters made it to the polls, but I’m not trying to play “what-if”. The fact is, they are not going to win, no matter what side you are on, I think you know that. The responsible thing to do would be to let it stand and save Utah taxpayers $2 million. As I said, I’m hoping it goes to SCOTUS. I’d like to see marriage equality in all 50 states because of Utah. lol

    • Eric Anderson

      The Supreme Court is notoriously unpredictable. But until they decide, the issue is not settled either way. So what are you afraid of? Let’s get the answer and move on.

      • Brian Michael Owens

        Ummmm, Because Utah has already been given the answer what 4 times now? Now since the AG’s office didn’t get the answer they want, they want to spend $2m to a private firm to get the same answer?

  • allen smiley

    It is truly amazing how attorneys and judges don’t know American. history. The 14th amendment gives no validity to homosexual marriages. It was strictly for freed ex-slaves to be given rights already enjoyed by free people. Moreover First Supreme Court Judge, John Jay wrote in federalist document one that America was created by God and the federal government was created to promote Christianity. No right to go against this was ever given to the feds to change this in convention.

  • Christopher C. Beebe

    I am deeply offended by Gov. Gary Herbert’s blatant REFUSAL to give up Utah’s definition of marriage. That, to me, just proves how Utah has its sights SOLIDLY in its past and never ready to look forward into the future. Utah is not setting a good example for the rest of the nation when it BLATANTLY refuses to give up its one-man/one-woman definition of marriage – even when it knows it’s lost.

  • Ghost

    For someone who has lived in Utah my whole life, I’m sadly not surprised that Utah has spent millions of our taxpayer money to fight this. For those of you not native to Utah, I’m sure you will still see my point because I myself am not a Morman. I’ve lived here my whole life and have seen the effects the church has on it’s people. Look at the voting surveys and see what I mean. In a simpler way, their church dictates who to vote for in the elections. My vote never counts here because I’m not LDS. Their prophet is what counts here and to those of us who are not LDS are never heard. But if you ask any state representative if their decisions are weighed by their religion they will lie and tell you no. If you’re like me, didn’t grow up LDS, you can easily read through the lines and know why we are the state we are. They have the nerve to fight for the 3rd amendment? What about the 1st amendment? Separation of church and state! They break that vow everyday! Marriage isn’t just to do, it is to have. And for those who want to sign their lives to the one they love so be it, especially when America has finally agreed to allow it. We can’t let Utah do this, it will show once again how shallow and ignorant we are to other people and their differences based on what THEY BELIEVE, how hypocritical is that?

  • upset longtime

    Why do people get married hmmm is it because they want there souls interlocked for eternity that means they must believe in god to believe in eternity because without god then there is no afterlife so therefore god says marriage must be between a man and a woman or a man shall not lie with another man wake up people your really starting to upset the man upstairs!

    • Caleb Larsen

      I believe in God, but just because your God says marriage is between is man and a woman, doesn’t mean mine does. Your’s also states you shouldn’t get haircuts or eat seafood. I’m assuming you do? WAKE UP “longtime” you must also be upsetting the man upstairs. You CANNOT pick and choose what bible versus you will follow.

  • Eric Anderson

    The Amendment in question is the law of the state of Utah, as enacted by the citizens. Our government has an obligation to do our will until it exhausts legal avenues to do so.

    Do you really want a government that automatically knuckles under whenever a Federal court says so? I don’t.

    The USSC will decide the issue eventually. Until then it remains an open question. Now is as good a time as any.

    Meanwhile, stop insisting that our elected officials ignore the will of the majority. It’s not the place for the legislative or executive branches of government to do that. Their JOB is to do the will of the majority, and the Attorney General’s JOB is to enforce the law, and to defend it in court.

    The rights of individuals and minorities are protected by the Judiciary. The Supreme Court of the United States is the court of last resort. They will decide. Until then, it’s not “decided”, legally.

    Think about it: The majority spoke, but they’re supposed to automatically give up because one Federal judge says so? That’s not how it works. The Tyranny of the Majority is certainly not something to aspire to, but sure the Tyranny of the Minority is no better. Are we to do the bidding of anyone who speaks up? If so, I demand a Tribute, payable into my checking account. Get on it! It’s right because I SAID SO.

  • Michael Haskins

    The “Tyranny of the Majority” Alexis de Toqueville was concerned about in his 1851 work “Democracy in America” is checked by protections set forth in the Constitution. – Finally!

  • Barb Miller

    I’m having a hard time believing our new AG has nothing better to do than to fight new laws promoting equality. Maybe he does,since he’s hiring outside help. Can I get my taxes back?

Comments are closed.

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