After the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals denied Utah’s motion for a stay of District Judge Robert Shelby’s ruling that Utah’s Amendment 3 and other laws that restricted same-sex couples from marrying, the Utah Attorney General’s office announced they would take the motion to the U.S. Supreme Court as early as today. The office, however, told Fox 13 News journalist Ben Winslow that it may take a few days because the office is working with outside counsel.
The state’s motion would go to Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who has jurisdiction over cases from Utah and neighboring states. She could either decide the issue herself or refer it to her colleagues. If she also denies the state’s request, Utah officials could ask the full court to consider it. There is no deadline for the justices to make a decision, but they typically act quickly on such requests.
The state’s motion for a stay was first denied verbally by Shelby, who on the day of the ruling told the Attorney General’s office he would only consider a written request. It was then denied by the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals twice over the weekend, the first because the case did not address two of four required arguments and the second because Shelby was to hear their case on Monday morning. Judge Shelby, after hearing about an hour’s worth of testimony from both sides of the issue, declined again to stay his ruling. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals again denied the request late Christmas Eve, saying the state did not sufficiently satisfy the four requirements to grant a stay, particularly that the state would likely win on appeal and that the state would be irreparably harmed if marriages continued.
The number of couples married in the state is estimated to be near 1,000. Legal experts say that the couples’ marriages would stand even if the ruling was overturned by a higher court and the marriage ban was back in effect.
Couples are now receiving marriage licenses in Utah County, whose county attorney and clerk were defying a directive from the Utah Attorney General’s office that refusing same-sex couples a license could lead to contempt charges. At least one Utah County couple has said they will file suit against the county clerk for refusing their license request on Monday.