SALT LAKE CITY — Attorneys for three Utah gay and lesbian couples formally asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday to take Utah's appeal of a favorable gay-marriage ruling, following through on what they said they would do earlier this month.
The plaintiffs say they are taking this somewhat unusual step of asking for a review even though they won at the federal appellate court level because they want the Supreme Court to weigh in on whether state same-sex marriage bans violate the Constitution.
"Lower courts around the country have correctly recognized that state laws prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying violate the Constitution," the plaintiffs' attorneys wrote. "Yet because these rulings do not apply nationwide, same-sex couples continue to experience great uncertainty and serious harm."
The National Center for Lesbian Rights, based in San Francisco, is representing the couples alongside private attorneys in Utah.
Utah state officials filed their request for the justices to hear an appeal of a June ruling from the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which found states cannot deprive gay and lesbian couples of the right to marry. The state argued that a review by the high court is necessary for an issue that has been "percolating" for four decades, with current court rulings across the country causing legal chaos.
Virginia and Oklahoma have also asked the Supreme Court to hear appeals of rulings by appeals courts on gay marriage bans in their states.
The high court is under no obligation to take Utah's case or the others. Legal scholars say the justices may wait for more rulings from other appellate courts with gay marriage cases pending.
Appeals-court rulings are pending for Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee, while appellate-court hearings are scheduled next month for Hawaii, Oregon, Idaho and Nevada. An appellate-court hearing is expected soon in Texas.
Gay marriage is legal in 19 states as well as the District of Columbia, and advocates have won more than 20 court victories around the country since the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the federal government to recognize state-sanctioned gay marriages last year.
Attorneys for Utah's gay couples argue in the 34-page filing that Utah is the ideal case to take because the state's ban is similar to those in many other states and because Utah state officials have "forcefully defended" the ban and "bring concrete adverseness to this suit."