Utah asks Supreme Court to halt gay marriages

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Justice Sonia Sotomayor. - PHOTO: Wikipedia

Utah officials on Dec. 31 asked the U.S. Supreme Court to suspend the same-sex marriages that have taken place since earlier in the month, when a federal district judge overturned a state ban on such unions.

Utah's appeal to the high court was delayed by the holidays and changes in the Utah Attorney General's office, along with a request for assistance from a private legal entity.

State officials in a request that goes to Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who handles emergency requests from the Rocky Mountain region asked that the Supreme Court block same-sex marriages while they prepare an appeal.

Sotomayor could handle the request herself or bring in the full court.

In its filing, the state said, "Numerous same-sex marriages are now occurring every day in Utah. Each one is an affront not only to the interests of the state and its citizens in being able to define marriage through ordinary democratic channels, but also to this court's unique role as final arbiter."

U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby, ruling on a lawsuit on Dec. 20, opened the way for same-sex couples to marry in the heavily Mormon state. He overturned the state's constitutional amendment against gay marriage without issuing a stay.

That meant that same-sex couples could begin receiving marriage licenses.

He also rejected a request from the state for a stay, as did the federal appeals court for the region.

The state, in the appeal to the Supreme Court, said, "Without a stay pending appeal, the district court's decision and order created a rush to marry."

State officials have estimated that to continue the court battle against same-sex marriage will cost more than $2 million