Gay couples should be able to continue to wed to Utah because the imposition of stay on their marriages would cause them “undisputed, irreparable harm,” attorneys for three same-sex couples wrote Friday in a filing to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The 40-page brief, which was filed in response to the stay request from Utah state officials to the Supreme Court, lays out the case for why halting same-sex marriages as litigation proceeds through the courts would cause harm.
“Forcing same-sex couples and their families to wait and hope for the best during the pendency of this appeal imposes an intolerable and dehumanizing burden that no family should have to endure,” the filing states.
The brief is signed by James Magleby, one of the attorneys at Magleby & Greenwood PC representing the three same-sex couples who are either seeking to marry in Utah or have the state recognize their marriage.
Gay couples have been able to wed in Utah since Dec. 20, when U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby ruled the state’s 2004 ban on same-sex marriage, known as Amendment 3, was unconstitutional. State officials didn’t make a stay request until after the ruling was handed down, and afterward both the district court and the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected requests for a stay.
After their stay requests were denied by lower courts attorneys for Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and Attorney General Sean Reyes issued a stay request this week before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Although the high court is expected to take up on the issue of marriage equality at some point in the future, Magleby writes that the Supreme Court may not necessarily take up this case once the Tenth Circuit issues its ruling.
“The constitutional issues presented in this case plainly are of great importance; however, currently there are more than twenty-five state and federal lawsuits, in at least 15 states, challenging state laws barring marriage by same-sex couples on federal constitutional grounds,” Magleby writes. “Therefore, while it is certainly possible the court ‘could’ grant certiorari in this case, Applicants cannot show that it ‘very likely would’ do so.”
The stay request is pending before U.S. Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who has jurisdiction for stay requests over the Tenth Circuit. She has the option of referring the request to all of her colleagues on the bench, who would provide the final word on whether a stay would be granted on same-sex marriages.
There’s no set time for when the court needs to render a decision, although an order is expected soon.
If Sotomayor goes it alone and decides against the stay, Utah officials may select any justice on the Supreme Court — such as a justice with an anti-gay reputation like U.S. Associate Justice Antonin Scalia — and make a final attempt to request a stay.