SALT LAKE CITY — The three couples challenging Utah's ban on same-sex marriage asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday to accept the state's request to hear the case.
Lawyers for the couples said earlier this month that even though they won at the district and appellate court levels, they intended to support the state's petition because the issue needs to be settled nationwide.
"At stake in this case is the liberty of an entire class of Americans who urgently need a ruling from this court that they are able to marry and to have their marriages recognized on an equal basis with other citizens," according to the brief.
The Utah Attorney General's Office argued in its Aug. 5 petition that Kitchen v. Herbert is the ideal vehicle to decide whether the Constitution compels states to adopt a single marriage policy allowing people to "marry the person of their choice," as the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed in June.
The state argues that ruling deprives Utah voters of their right to define marriage as they overwhelmingly did in passing Amendment 3 in 2004.
"It comes down to this: Thousands of couples are unconstitutionally being denied the right to marry, or millions of voters are being disenfranchised of their vote to define marriage," the state wrote.
Derek Kitchen and Moudi Sbeity, Laurie Wood and Kody Partridge, and Karen Archer and Kate Call filed a lawsuit against Utah's ban on same-sex marriage in federal court. Archer and Call married in Iowa and claim Utah law bars them from being treated the same as heterosexual couples because it does not recognize their marriage.
The couples argue in the brief that because lower court rulings do not apply across the country, same-sex couples continue to experience great uncertainty and serious harm.
"Laurie and I have been together for many years, and we want to be treated as equal citizens, with our relationship honored the same way that the marriages of our parents, family members and friends have been respected," Partridge said in a statement. "We hope the Supreme Court will recognize that our longstanding relationship deserves the same respect that other couples receive through marriage."
U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby struck down Utah's law defining marriage as between a man and a woman last December, ruling it violates equal protection guarantees in the 14th Amendment.
The state appealed Shelby's decision to the Denver-based 10th Circuit Court and obtained a stay from the Supreme Court, but not before about 1,300 same-sex couples married in the state. The 10th Circuit upheld Shelby's ruling.
Peggy Tomsic, the plaintiff's lead attorney, said she hopes the Supreme Court will take the case and affirm the appellate court's decision.
“This is one country, and we have only one Constitution," she said in a statement.
The state argued in its Supreme Court petition that rewriting the Constitution to impose the 10th Circuit’s marriage definition on each state has consequences.
"It communicates that the marriage institution is more about adults than children. It teaches that mothers and fathers are interchangeable and therefore expendable. And it instills an incentive that citizens seeking social change should use the courts, rather than the democratic process, to achieve it," the state contends.