The California Supreme Court has denied a request by Utah and nine other states to delay its ruling allowing same-sex marriages until after the November election.

Paul Murphy, spokesman for the Utah Attorney General's Office, said the request for the stay was aimed at preventing the potential for unnecessary litigation.

"We're disappointed and we will prepare to defend the state against any (marriage) recognition lawsuits, and do the best we can to make sure taxpayers don't bare the brunt of this litigation," Murphy said.

Wednesday's decision means that same-sex couples will be able to marry in California on June 17.

The Gay Rights advocacy group Equality Utah issued a statement praising the court's decision, saying, "we can now celebrate with Californians who can now enter into civil marriage without delay."

However, in November, California voters will decide whether to overrule the Supreme Court by amending the state constitution to ban gay marriage.

"People are going to get married in June," Murphy said. "In November voters will decide whether that will continue. During that time, marriages will be taking place."

Attorney General Mark Shurtleff had petitioned the court last week for the stay on behalf of himself and nine other attorney generals, saying the states could face "premature, unnecessary, unnecessarily difficult" lawsuits. California conservative religious and political groups had also requested delays and rehearings.

The 4-3 decision to deny those requests came with the same four justices in the majority who comprised the earlier majority opinion that it was discriminatory to deny marriage rights to same-sex couples. The majority didn't give reasons for denying the stay in its one-page order.

Unlike Massachusetts, the first state in the nation to allow same-sex marriage, California has no residency requirements for its marriage licenses.

Utah's constitution prohibits recognition of same-sex marriage and other domestic unions. However, the state could face a federal challenge on whether the U.S. Constitution requires recognition of the California marriages.

That question has been "hotly debated" by legal scholars for over a decade, said Monte Stewart, president of the Marriage Law Foundation, which supports traditional marriage.

"It is absolutely extraordinary that in about five months the marriage definition in California may well return to the union of a man and a woman," Stewart said. "You're going to have a very complicated issue at that point."

Regardless of whether or not there is litigation, Equality Utah's statement pointed to the group's ongoing support for advocates and political candidates who will work for policy change here.

"What's more important is how we move forward in an effort to achieve a fair and just Utah," the statement said. "Until and unless the law of our great land protects every citizen, it protects no one."


E-mail: dbulkeley@desnews.com