SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s attorney general said July 9 the state will go straight to the U.S. Supreme Court in hopes of overturning a federal appellate court’s ruling that overturned the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.
On the same day in neighboring Colorado, a judge overturned that state’s ban on same-sex marriage.
The decision by Colorado District Court Judge C. Scott Crabtree “advances a misinterpretation of the institution of marriage in modern society, reducing marriage to a sheer emotional arrangement that can simply be redefined to accommodate the impulses of culture,” said a July 10 statement by Colorado’s Catholic bishops.
“As Catholics, we have a duty to protect and preserve marriage as the union of one man and one woman in our laws and policies. We are called to make this stand because redefining marriage will only further erode the family structure of our society,” the bishops added.
Colorado and Utah were two of six states affected by a 2-1 decision issued June 25 by a three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that said states could not deprive people of the right to marry because they chose partners of the same sex. The other four states are Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Wyoming.
It marked the first time a federal appellate court had struck down state same-sex marriage bans. Crabtree’s ruling marked the 16th time a state judge had overturned its state’s same-sex marriage prohibition. In both cases, the judges put their rulings on hold pending probable appeals.
Despite the 10th Circuit’s stay on its own affecting six states, Boulder County Clerk Hillary Hall in Colorado had been giving marriage licenses to same-sex couples. On July 10, a county judge said Hall could continue to give the licenses, with the understanding that the licenses could be declared invalid at some point in the future.
The judge, Andrew Hamilton, noted, though, that every state judge issuing a ruling in the past year had declared same-sex marriage bans unconstitutional, and that Colorado’s own ban was “hanging by a thread.”
Voters approved Utah’s same-sex marriage ban in 2004. Colorado voters had done the same in 2006.
Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes chose to bypass the full 10th Circuit in a bid to have the U.S. Supreme Court hear Utah’s case. The high court is under no obligation to hear the appeal. It often does not consider appeals unless there are conflicting judgments from other federal or state courts.
At the federal judicial level, a ruling is expected soon by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Virginia’s statewide ban; the case was heard in May. Federal courts are also due to hear arguments in August and September for cases out of Idaho, Kentucky, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio and Tennessee.
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert had said he hoped the state would appeal directly to the Supreme Court, his office said recently. He added the state already budgeted money needed to defend the law. It has already spent about $300,000 paying three outside attorneys to defend its same-sex marriage ban, and estimates paying another $300,000 to argue its case before the Supreme Court.