Battle over same-sex marriage in Utah heats up

Utah state attorneys filed their opening argument to the federal appeals court on Monday, Feb. 4, 2014, examining the state's same-sex marriage ban. State attorneys contend it is within Utah's right to define marriage as it chooses. Utah's same-sex marriage ban was passed by 66% of voters in 2004.

Although the brief states that U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby did not give "proper deference to the choice of Utah's citizens" when he struck down the ban in the December 20, 2013 ruling, the primary basis of the state's 120-page argument focuses on the contention that the optimal environment for raising children is with a mother and father.

"Maintaining the man-woman definition helps prevent further erosion of the traditional concept of marriage as being principally a child-centered institution," state attorneys wrote, "one focused first and foremost on the welfare of children rather than the emotional interests of adults."

Attorneys for the three same-sex couples who sued Utah have until Feb. 25, 2014 to respond.

The brief is the first step in the process that leads to an April 10, 2014 hearing before the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The court at that time will rule if it agrees with the federal judge in Utah who overturned the 2004-voter passed ban on the basis that it violated same-sex couples' rights to due process and equal protection under the 14th Amendment.

There were 1,400 gay couples married in Utah before the Supreme Court granted the stay last month. Utah Gov. Gary Herbert has instructed state agencies to stop granting benefits to the couples other than allowing them to file joint tax returns. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder responded by saying the federal government will recognize the marriages and grant corresponding benefits.

The outcome of Utah's appeal, if it reaches the U.S. Supreme Court, may see the high court rule on the constitutionality of bans on same-sex marriage that are in effect in most states.

At Stange Law Firm, PC we are aware of the current trends and happenings in family law. We will continue to keep you updated.

Source: Utah in Gay Marriage Filing: Kids Need Mom and Dad, Brady McCombs, Associated Press