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January 1, 2014

Utah wants to block unions

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah took its fight against gay marriage to the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday, asking the high court to suspend same-sex unions that became legal when a judge struck down the state’s voter-approved ban.

The heavily Mormon state wants the marriages to stop while it appeals a judge’s decision, which said banning gay couples from marrying violates their right to equal treatment under the law.

In papers filed Tuesday, the state asked Justice Sonia Sotomayor to overturn a decision that has led to more than 900 gay marriages in Utah. Sotomayor handles emergency requests from Utah and other Rocky Mountain states.

Sotomayor responded by setting a deadline of by noon Friday for legal briefs from same-sex couples. She can act by herself or get the rest of the court involved.

“Numerous same-sex marriages are now occurring every day in Utah,” Utah lawyers complain in the filing. “Each one is an affront not only to the interests of the state and its citizens in being able to define marriage through ordinary democratic channels, but also to this court’s unique role as final arbiter.”

Also Tuesday, the Utah Attorney General’s Office advertised a formal bid request to outside law firms for help preparing the appeals.

State officials have said it could cost $2 million, bringing criticism from a lawyer for couples who sued to overturn the ban and say Utah should give up the fight.

“We are disappointed that Utah will spend millions of dollars in taxpayer’s money, to attempt to reinstate laws which deny due process and equal protection to all of Utah’s citizens,” the lawyer, James Magleby, said Tuesday.

Utah insists that states have the authority to define marriage as between a man and woman. “That states have a powerful interest in controlling the definition of marriage within their borders is indisputable,” Utah said in the filing.

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