The Utah Attorney General [official website] filed an application for stay [text, PDF] with the US Supreme Court [official website] on Tuesday to block same-sex marriages pending the state's appeal of a US district judge's December 20 decision [JURIST report] striking down the state's ban. Three similar applications to the US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit have been rejected [JURIST report]. The attorney general argues that the district court's decision to strike down the ban on same-sex marriage is an "impermissible federal intrusion on state power" to define marriage. The application also states that same-sex marriages are now occurring every day in Utah, and "each one is an affront" to state interests. The attorney general concludes that a stay is "urgently needed" to minimize the "enormous disruption to the state and its citizens of potentially having to unwind thousand more same-sex marriages" if the Supreme Court should agree with Utah that the district court exceeded its constitutional authority. A response is due Friday.
The rights of same-sex couples has been a controversial issue in the US and internationally. Last month the US District Court for the District of Utah ruled that Utah's constitutional and statutory bans on same-sex marriage violated due process and equal protection guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution. The same day that the Utah ruling was issued, the Uganda parliament passed a bill limiting the rights of same-sex couples and imposing a penalty of up to life imprisonment [JURIST report] for involvement in homosexual relationships. Earlier that week, New Mexico's high court ruled that it is unconstitutional [JURIST report] to deny same-sex couples the right to marry. The same week, the US executive branch announced that it would begin processing Social Security payments [JURIST report] to surviving couples in accordance with a US Supreme Court ruling [JURIST report] issued this summer which struck down the Defense of Marriage Act [text], a federal statute that defined marriage as a legal union between a man and a woman for all federal purposes and refused to recognize any other type of marriage.