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Utah to ask Supreme Court to halt same-sex marriage

Dec. 25, 2013 at 1:00 AM   |   Comments

SALT LAKE CITY, Dec. 25 (UPI) -- Utah will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to halt the state's flood of same-sex marriages, after an appeals court refused to do so, the state attorney general said.

The state plans to appeal to the high court Thursday, seeking an immediate stop to gay and lesbian couples from being granted marriage licenses, acting Attorney General Brian Tarbet told the Salt Lake Tribune.

Thursday's action will come two days after the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver denied Utah's request to stop the marriages, which the Deseret News in Salt Lake City says have topped 700 since Friday, when a lower court declared the state's ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional.

Friday's ruling by U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby in Salt Lake City said Utah's 2004 voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage violated the U.S. Constitution and denied same-sex couples their "fundamental right" to marriage.

That set off jubilant impromptu weddings across the largely conservative state.

The state asked Shelby to stay his own ruling, arguing same-sex nuptials would cause irreparable harm to the state.

Shelby refused, and so did the appeals court late Tuesday.

The appeals court said Utah failed to demonstrate it suffered irreparable harm in allowing same-sex couples to wed and failed to show it had a "significant likelihood" of prevailing in its appeal to defend the marriage ban.

Each circuit court is assigned to a particular Supreme Court justice for appeals. Utah will appeal to Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Tarbet told the Tribune.

Sotomayor will have the option of considering the state's request herself or referring it to the full court.

If she considers and denies the state's request for a stay, Utah's last option would be to appeal to the full Supreme Court.

University of Utah law Professor Clifford Rosky told the newspaper the chances of getting a stay from the Supreme Court are much slimmer than getting one from the two lower courts that already refused to stop same-sex marriages in Utah.

The state will have to prove the appeals court "clearly and demonstrably" erred in refusing to halt same-sex marriage in the case, he said.

"It's basically asking, was the 10th Circuit's decision reasonable? Could a reasonable argument be made for making the decision the 10th Circuit made?" Rosky said.

"It doesn't matter if the Supreme Court agrees with the ruling. What matters is if it was reasonable. If it was, it stands," he said.

Thursday's motion will be Utah's fifth try to get a stay to stop gay and lesbian weddings.

© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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