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Utah plans to appeal appellate court's ruling on same-sex marriage to U.S. Supreme Court

Published: Wednesday, June 25 2014 10:25 a.m. MDT

Tomsic, meanwhile, said she gave the 10th Circuit "enormous respect for not only intellectually being honest, but writing a very deep and analytical decision supporting their finding that Judge Shelby was right, that Amendment 3 and these marriage discrimination laws violate due process and equal protection."

Derek Kitchen, one of the plaintiffs, said the court system treated same-sex couples with dignity.

"It feels wonderful to be among one of the many, many same-sex couples across the country that are being respected and they’re offered dignity by the court system. This is just emblematic of the United States judicial process and it's an honor and I’m so humbled and proud to be here," Kitchen said at a press conference Wednesday afternoon.

Stay impacts six states

Utah is one of 33 states to have banned same-sex marriage either through its constitution or by statute. In 2004, Utahns approved the amendment to the state's Constitution and its traditional definition of marriage.

Wednesday's ruling is the first federal appellate court decision since the U.S. Supreme Court last summer struck down a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act in U.S. v. Windsor.

If not for the stay, the ruling would become law in the six states of the 10th Circuit's jurisdiction — Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming. New Mexico's Supreme Court has already legalized gay marriage in that state.

Reaction to the decision was swift and divided.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in a statement posted on its website, said: "The Church has been consistent in its support of marriage between a man and a woman and teaches that all people should be treated with respect. In anticipation that the case will be brought before the U.S. Supreme Court, it is our hope that the nation’s highest court will uphold traditional marriage."

Meanwhile, Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said the decision affirms that "the U.S. Constitution guarantees the basic civil rights of all Americans, not just some.”

“Utah’s ban on marriage equality does nothing to strengthen or protect any marriage. Instead, it singles out thousands of loving Utah families for unfair treatment simply because of who they are. Our Constitution does not allow for such blatant discrimination," Griffin said.

But Robert George, Princeton University professor of politics who served as a presidential appointee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and a judicial fellow at the Supreme Court, described the appellate decision as “a crime with two victims.”

“The first victim is the institution of marriage itself, which is redefined to remove its conjugal nature and to replace it with a counterfeit conception of marriage as a form of sexual-romantic companionship or domestic partnership. The second victim is the principle of self-government," said George, who is a past chairman of the National Organization for Marriage, which advocates for traditional marriage, and is a member of the Deseret News Editorial Advisory Board.

Appeal will follow

The decision by Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes to seek an appeal is "vitally important not only to the institution of marriage itself, which has served mankind so well for so long, but to the institutions of self-government," George said.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said he was not surprised by the ruling, but he disagreed with the court's reasoning and hopes the Supreme Court will allow states to define marriage.

"Although I oppose discrimination based on sexual orientation, I have always believed that marriage is a sacred union between one man and one woman," Hatch said. "In my view, the U.S. Constitution does not dictate a particular definition of marriage, so I believe such judgments are properly left to the citizens of each state."

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