SALT LAKE CITY — Attorneys for three gay and lesbian Utah couples intend to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to take the state's appeal even though they won a lower court ruling for same-sex marriage.
Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said the plaintiffs agree with Utah that the nation's top court should hear the case. Minter acknowledged it is an unusual move, but she said this is an unusual if not extraordinary situation.
Attorneys "thought about this long and hard" and talked to the plaintiffs before coming to the conclusion that there is no way for same-sex couples in Utah and across the country to have "true equality or certainty or finality until we have a nationwide ruling," Minter said in an interview Thursday.
"It seems the time has come," she said. "We do believe the Utah case would be an excellent vehicle."
The Utah Attorney General's Office issued a statement Thursday saying it's pleased that the plaintiffs "agree with us that there is a strong need for the U.S. Supreme Court to resolve this issue once and for all, for everyone. We look forward to presenting our case to the court in the months ahead."
The state argued in its petition to the high court Tuesday that it's time for the justices to weigh in.
According to the petition, Kitchen v. Herbert is the ideal case to decide whether the Constitution compels states to adopt a single marriage policy that allows people to "marry the person of their choice," as the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed in June.
The state contends that ruling deprives Utah voters of their right to define marriage as they overwhelmingly did in passing Amendment 3 a decade ago.
Utah asked the Supreme Court to answer a single question: "Whether the 14th Amendment prohibits a state from defining or recognizing marriage only as the legal union between a man and a woman."
The petition says the issue has percolated long enough, with dozens of cases challenging state marriage laws and erratic use of stays creating legal chaos. Only the Supreme Court can lift the "vast cloud covering this entire area of the law," the state argued.
Minter said the more than 80 cases making their way through courts across the country have created a "bewildering patchwork" of differing state laws that is causing uncertainty for millions of families.
"This is an issue that literally affects people's lives every single day," she said. "We hope that the court will agree that it is time to take a case."
If the justices decide to hear the case, oral arguments would likely be next spring with a ruling to follow in the summer.
Utah was the first among several states whose marriage laws were overturned in lower courts to appeal to the Supreme Court. Oklahoma followed suit on Wednesday.
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