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High court asked to halt Utah recognition of same-sex marriages

By Bill Mears, CNN Supreme Court Producer
updated 9:13 AM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Utah officials don't want to recognize same-sex marriages
  • They say issue is still being decided in courts
  • Federal court had ruled amendment violated equal protection rights

(CNN) -- Utah officials have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to temporarily block a lower court's order that the state formally recognize hundreds of same-sex marriages performed earlier this year.

In an emergency appeal filed late Wednesday and addressed to Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Gov. Gary Herbert and Attorney General Sean Reyes said the issue of whether the state's voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage is constitutional remains pending in the courts.

Having to recognize those same sex marriages before the larger legal questions are fully decided, said the state, would be too disruptive.

Once the constitutional issue is fully resolved --- likely by the Supreme Court in the next year or so -- both sides in the debate "will know the status of the interim marriages. Until then, requiring [the state] to recognize plaintiffs' marriages and provide marital benefits is premature and unwarranted," said the appeal.

A federal appeals court late last month ruled Utah's voter-approved Amendment 3 violated the equal protection rights of same-sex couples. The law currently defines marriage only between one man and one woman.

A group of plaintiffs then asked that court to order the state to recognize those marriage licenses already issued in late December and January. The judges did so, prompting the state's current stay request to the Supreme Court

About 1,300 same-sex couples obtained marriage licenses in the 17 days after a federal judge ruled on December 20 that Utah's ban was unconstitutional. Those marriages were stopped after a separate, temporary stay was put in place in January by the Supreme Court. That was the issue in the current litigation.

The case is Herbert v. Evans.

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