Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Attorney General Sean Reyes takes oath, poised to appeal gay marriage ruling

By Lisa Riley Roche, Deseret News

Published: Mon, Dec. 30 7:31 p.m. MST

 Sean Reyes takes the oath of office as Utah's attorney general as Chief Justice Matthew Durrant cites the oath and Reyes' wife, Saysha, holds the Bible in the rotunda of the state Capitol in Salt Lake City on Monday, Dec. 30, 2013. Reyes replaces John Swallow, who resigned in November.

Sean Reyes takes the oath of office as Utah's attorney general as Chief Justice Matthew Durrant cites the oath and Reyes' wife, Saysha, holds the Bible in the rotunda of the state Capitol in Salt Lake City on Monday, Dec. 30, 2013. Reyes replaces John Swallow, who resigned in November.

(Matt Gade, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Just moments after being sworn in Monday, Attorney General Sean Reyes told reporters the state is ready to file a request with the U.S. Supreme Court for a stay in the federal court ruling striking down Amendment 3.

But Reyes, who in a speech at the ceremony in the Capitol rotunda had promised his administration would be transparent, declined to name the outside counsel he said the office retained to help with the filing.

"You'll see on the briefing when it's filed today or tomorrow," Reyes said. "Transparency is important. This is part of who we are and what we'll do. If it was next week, I would let you know who it is. But you'll find out."

Brian Tarbet, the former acting attorney general named by Reyes to be his chief deputy, said the office hired Monte Stewart, a Boise-based attorney. Stewart founded the Marriage Law Foundation that defends traditional marriage.

Stewart has been paid to help with the state's defense of the voter-approved constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman for several months, Tarbet said.

Stewart's name will be on the state's Supreme Court filing, Tarbet said, but likely not the other attorneys the state is in the process of hiring to help with a full appeal of the Dec. 20 ruling by U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby. That ruling struck down Utah's voter-approved constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

The ruling has resulted in gay marriages being allowed in Utah. Both Shelby and the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals have turned down the state's requests to stay the decision while it is being appealed.

It apparently has been difficult for the state to find lawyers willing to take on the appeal to the 10th Circuit, and potentially the Supreme Court. Tarbet said at this point, it's the state's procurement process that has slowed the hire.

Reyes has already met with state leaders to make the case for the anticipated $2 million cost of fighting the case all the way to the nation's top court. House GOP majority leadership gave Reyes the go-ahead last Friday to spend the money.

Monday, he justified the expenditure to reporters by describing dealing with the Supreme Court as "a very unique and specialized expertise" and said when his office doesn't have that expertise, it'll pay to get it.

"Our commitment to the people is if we don't have it internally, then we'll find the best to represent the state," he said. "We're willing to spend whatever it takes to protect the laws and the will of the people."

Reyes said he does not yet "know the exact price tag, but that's part of the process of evaluating and engaging outside counsel." He said he anticipates support from lawmakers and Gov. Gary Herbert for the expense.

Everyone benefits from appealing the case, Reyes said.

"All of the citizens of the state should want a final say," he said. "Hopefully getting a final word from the Supreme Court on this issue will give us all some closure."

The governor, who met with Reyes after the ceremony, told reporters he wanted to "make sure the money is being well spent" and said there needs to be a cost-benefit analysis of using outside counsel.

"Bringing people in is not a problem," Herbert said. "The state would want to have the best argument out there in defense of Amendment 3. The opposition will have their best foot forward, too."

Lee Rech, a spokeswoman for Reyes, said after the attorney general's meeting with the governor that Herbert "is supportive of the legal strategy and the hiring of outside counsel.”

Also expected to be appealed by the attorney general's office is another federal court ruling overturning Utah's ban on polygamy. Reyes said he is waiting for the final order to be issued before commenting.

He said it is not his intention to hire outside counsel in that case.

Reyes takes the place of former Attorney General John Swallow, who announced he was resigning in November amid investigations into allegations that include influence peddling.

Pledging a fresh start for the office, Reyes said he feels challenged rather than overwhelmed. He believes serving effectively will help him win election next November to the remainder of Swallow's term.

Lawmakers are already looking at legislation dealing with the marriage issue.

Rep. Jacob Anderegg, R-Orem, has a proposed constitutional amendment drafted that he plans to introduce in the 2014 Legislature that begins meeting late next month.

Anderegg said his amendment would prevent clergy from having to marry gay couples if that goes against their religious teachings. He said he came up with the proposal more than a year ago.

"I think it would give a level of comfort to the rank and file of the religious right," Anderegg said of the proposed amendment, which, if approved by the Utah Legislature would go before voters in November 2014.

He said there is already talk among lawmakers about more extensive proposals, including allowing business owners to turn down gay customers if serving them is in violation of their faith.

But Anderegg said he prefers a more narrow approach, at least for now.

"I want everyone to take a collective deep breath and relax. Just relax," he said. "This bill was not meant to be a slap on anybody."

Email: lisa@deseretnews.com

Twitter: DNewsPolitics

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1. RanchHand
Huntsville, UT,
Dec. 30, 2013

Can't handle the case itself, the AG's office has to bring in "outside experts".

The AG's office is not looking good. Not looking good at all.

2. Meckofahess
Salt Lake City, UT,
Dec. 30, 2013

Congratulations to Attorney General Reyes on his recent appointment. A wise move by our Governor. Mr. Reyes, please remember that the majority of Utahns want a fair hearing of our concerns over the legal definition of marriage. As we the majority of citizens pay the bulk of the taxes, please deploy as many millions as needed to ensure that we have the best legal team possible to represent the point of view of the majority of the people. We wish you success as our Attorney General - you are off to a good start. God Bless!

3. RanchHand
Huntsville, UT,
Dec. 30, 2013

@Meckofahess;

Fortunately for those of us who also live in Utah, our Constitutional rights are not subject to the "will of the majority"; but derive from the US Constitution, which invalidates Utah's Amendment 3 due to it's Constitutional violations.

You are welcome to send money, but the state is not welcome to use the tax money of LGBT citizens in it's efforts to pursue further discrimination against us. I can see a lawsuit in that too.

4. Ernest T. Bass
Bountiful, UT,
Dec. 30, 2013

The only thing the "outside experts" are going to do is make millions from Utah taxpayers only to lose this so-called 'battle' in the end.
It's time to deal with reality: There are no legal reasons two adults cannot marry. This isn't a religious issue, this is a Civil Rights issue and your side lost.
Stop wasting taxpayer money and accept the inevitable. Take a look at the photos of the people who are finally becoming families. This is a great thing!

5. I know it. I Live it. I Love it.
Provo, UT,
Dec. 30, 2013

RanchHand,

If your rights are derived from the U.S. Constitution, so can they be taken away by the U.S. Constitution and those who govern it. With no disrespect, I offer this idea... that where we place our trust is just as important as why we are doing it.

I vote on marriage for the same reason we have laws regarding libel and why we have traffic lights. We do to govern and regulate society in order to foster the freedom/potential for human happiness. None of these have taken rights away that did not already exist.

You remain free to interact with your fellow man, peruse your own happiness, and so on. You may disagree about such freedom, but I again caution... if you succeed in the government regulating this affair according to your interpretations... then we the people, we the government, will have just as much power to take away what you have given us permission to.

God gives us what we have and can just as rightfully take it again. We can try to justify ourselves and our governments... but we cannot exceed His authority. We inherit rights, we don't create them.