Utah asked the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday to bring a halt to same-sex marriages in the heavily Mormon state.
In a stay request filed with Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Utah officials urged a ruling by a federal judge declaring the state's ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional be blocked while the decision is appealed.
The request comes after U.S District Court Judge Robert J. Shelby declared Utah's ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional in a 53-page Dec. 20 ruling that found "Utah's prohibition on same-sex marriage conflicts with the United States Constitution's guarantees of equal protection and due process under the law."
Listing a variety of reasons, Utah argues in their stay request filed today that the state and and its citizens "will suffer irreparable injury from halting the enforcement of Utah's definition of marriage," which was defined as between a man and a woman in the state's Constitution by voters in 2004.
"Every marriage performed uniting person of the same sex is an affront to the sovereignty of the State and to the democratically expressed will of the people of Utah," the application states, while also noting Utah could face "ever-increasing administrative and financial costs" before the case is resolved and that same-sex couples "may be irreparably harmed in their dignitary and financial interests if their marital status is retroactively voided."
Although the Utah attorney general's office appealed the decision to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, Shelby denied a request on Dec. 23 to issue a stay on his decision during the appeals process. Hours later, all but one Utah county began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. On Christmas Eve, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals also denied a request for a stay, allowing same-sex marriages to continue in the state while the case is appealed. The Utah attorney general's office announced last week they would take their stay request to the Supreme Court.
According to The Salt Lake Tribune, more than 1,225 marriage licenses had been issued in Utah between the day of the Dec. 20 ruling and Dec. 26. At least 74 percent of those were issued to same-sex couples.
While the stay request heads to the desk of Justice Sotomayor, who oversees the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, due to the high-profile nature of the decision in Utah Sotomayor could request all nine Supreme Court justices decide the matter.
The Supreme Court's consideration of the emergency stay request pushes marriage equality before the high court just six months after first weighing in on the issue. In June, the Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, prohibiting federal recognition of same-sex marriage, and upheld a lower court's decision striking down California’s ban on same-sex marriage.
[Photo: U.S. Supreme Court building. Credit: Matt Wade/Wikimedia Commons.]