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. She acknowledged it is an unusual move but she said this is an unusual if not extraordinary situation.
Minter said 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," she said in an interview Thursday.
"It seems the time has come," Minter said. "We do believe the Utah case would be an excellent vehicle."
The state argued the same thing in petitioning the Supreme Court on Tuesday.
The Utah Attorney General's Office says Kitchen v. Herbert is the ideal vehicle 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.
This is an issue that literally affects people's lives every single day. We hope that the court will agree that it is time to take a case.
–Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights
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 with more than 80 cases making their way through courts across the country, there is 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 struck down in lower courts to appeal to the Supreme Court. Oklahoma followed suit on Wednesday.