SALT LAKE CITY — A conservative Christian lobbying group filed a court brief Thursday supporting Utah's appeal of a judge's ruling that struck down the state's ban on same-sex marriage.
The Family Research Council submitted a friend-of-the-court brief to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, arguing Utah's marriage law does not violate the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment. The state filed its opening argument in the case Monday.
The council urges the appeals court to reverse U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby's decision because "the novel and unprincipled fundamental rights analysis on which it is based are deeply flawed."
Based in Washington, D.C., the Family Research Council works to advance faith, family and freedom in public policy and the culture from a Christian worldview, according to its website.
Paul Benjamin Linton, an attorney for the council, argues in the brief that the question isn't who may marry but what marriage is. The issue before the court, he wrote, is not whether there is a fundamental right to marry the person of one’s choice, but whether there is a right to same-sex marriage.
"The principal defining characteristic of marriage, as it has been understood in our 'history, legal traditions and practices,' is the union of a man and a woman," according to the filing.
Utah voters approved a state constitutional amendment in 2004 defining marriage as between and a man and a woman. The Family Research Council supported the measure known as Amendment 3. Three same-sex couples challenged the law in federal court last March.
Shelby found the law is unconstitutional, saying it denies gay and lesbian citizens their fundamental right to marry and demeans the dignity of same-sex couples for no rational reason. He agreed with Utah that marriage laws have traditionally been and remain the province of states, but must comply with the U.S. Constitution.
The council contends same-sex marriage is not a fundamental right but a new right.
"Laws that treat men and women equally, and do not subject them to different restrictions or disabilities, cannot be said to deny either men or women the equal protection of the laws," according to the brief. "Amendment 3 treats men and women equally: Both men and women may marry someone of the opposite sex; neither may marry someone of the same sex."
The Family Research Council's brief is the second of many expected to be filed on both sides before the Denver-based 10th Circuit holds oral arguments April 10.