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Utah Takes Fight Against Gay Marriage to US Supreme Court

Sonia Sotomayor

Sonia Sotomayor

Utah has taken its fight against LGBT marriage equality to the highest court in the nation, asking Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor to suspend a lower court’s ruling permitting same-sex couples to legally wed in the staunchly conservative state.

Last month, US District Judge Robert J. Shelby ruled that Utah’s 2004 ban on same-sex marriage was an unconstitutional violation of gay couples’ right to equal protection and due process under the law. Immediately, same-sex couples began marrying in Salt Lake City, the state’s capital and largest city. Judge Shelby’s decision and the subsequent rush to wed sent shock waves through conservative Utah, home of the Mormon Church, which is vehemently opposed to LGBT rights.

The state attorney general’s office appealed Judge Shelby’s decision almost immediately after it was announced, but the 10th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver denied a stay of the ruling.

Undaunted, Utah is now appealing to the nation’s highest court in a desperate bid to stop same-sex couples from enjoying the same rights as heterosexual couples. Utah argues that same-sex marriage is “an affront… to the interests of the state and its citizens in being able to define marriage through ordinary democratic channels.” The state’s application relies in part on the Supreme Court’s June 2013 United States v. Windsor ruling, which struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) but also declared that the definition of marriage was best left up to states to decide.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who handles emergency legal applications from Utah and neighboring states, has asked the plaintiffs in the case, three same-sex couples, to respond by noon on Friday.

Utah is the 18th state, plus the District of Columbia and a handful of Native American tribes, to achieve LGBT marriage equality. Neighboring New Mexico did so one day before Judge Shelby’s ruling. Nearly two-thirds of Utah’s 2.9 million residents are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or Mormon Church, which is staunchly opposed to LGBT marriage equality.

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