Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to determine whether Utah's law banning same-sex marriage violates the U.S. Constitution.
Mr. Reyes' petition to the high court, filed Tuesday in Washington, seeks to reverse the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' June 25 ruling overturning the state's ban on same-sex marriages on grounds it violates gay and lesbian couples' rights to equal protection and due process under the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.
In his petition, Mr. Reyes said the need for the Supreme Court's ruling on states' authority to deprive gay and lesbian couples of the same rights and benefits afforded to opposite-sex couples has “grown exponentially” since June 2013, when the court cited procedural reasons for not ruling on the legality of California's voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage.
Since then, more than 70 lawsuits challenging state-level gay marriage bans have been filed in state and federal courts.
“There are no other modern examples where litigants have brought such similar challenges to so many state laws — including constitutional provisions approved by millions of voters,” Mr. Reyes said in his petition to the Supreme Court.
Late last month, a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, struck down that state's constitutional amendment forbidding marriage between gay and lesbian couples.
Additionally, state and federal judges in Arkansas, Colorado, Indiana, Kentucky, Florida, Idaho, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Oregon Texas, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin have struck down those states' same-sex marriage bans in their entirety, while bans in Ohio and Tennessee have been partially overturned.
Appeals to federal courts in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage in Idaho, Indiana, Michigan, Nevada Texas and Wisconsin also are underway in the 5th, 6th, 7th and 9th Circuit Courts of Appeals.
In a statement Tuesday, Mr. Reyes said his office filed the state's petition nearly six weeks ahead of the Supreme Court's Sept. 23 deadline in the hope of reaching a swift resolution to the nationwide debate over anti-gay marriage laws.
“We recognize this litigation has caused uncertainty and disruption and have accordingly tried to expedite its resolution as quickly as possible,” Mr. Reyes said in the statement. “Utah welcomes a speedy grant of the petition and a Supreme Court merits decision, as all Utah citizens will benefit when the Supreme Court provides clear finality on the important issue of state authority to define marriage.”