Utah Argues Children Are Threatened by Same-Sex Marriage

Utah, fighting to preserve its law prohibiting same-sex marriage, argued it’s obligated to defend future generations of children whose well-being is threatened by the dissolution of the heterosexual model of marriage.

Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes and its Governor Gary Herbert today asked the U.S. Court of Appeals in Denver to throw out a ruling by a federal judge in Salt Lake City that the U.S. Constitution guarantees marriage rights to same-sex couples.

Utah has a duty to defend “all of Utah’s children -- both now and in future generations,” according to the filing. In its constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, Utah voters “reaffirmed among other things their firm belief -- also supported by sound social science -- that moms and dads are different, not interchangeable, and that the diversity of having both a mom and a dad is the ideal parenting environment.”

Gay marriage is legal in 17 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. The U.S. Supreme Court decided in June to overturn part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act and leave standing an order ending California’s ban on same-sex marriage. The court didn’t say whether similar state laws should also be struck down, leaving lower courts to grapple with that issue.

States from Virginia to Wisconsin face a wave of lawsuits in which advocates seek to expand recognition of marriage rights for gay couples.

Marital Benefits

Reyes, a Republican, said last month that marital benefits won’t be granted to same-sex couples married after the state’s ban was struck down by U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby on Dec. 20 if they didn’t seek them in the 2 1/2 weeks before the U.S. Supreme Court put that order on hold. The Supreme Court halted gay weddings in Utah on Jan. 6 after more than 1,000 marriages had been conducted. The policy doesn’t affect benefits obtained before the high court ruled.

Utah sought Supreme Court intervention after Shelby, an appointee of Democratic President Barack Obama, and the Denver-based appeals court let the marriages go forward. The Supreme Court didn’t rule on the merits of the case.

John Mejia, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union in Utah, declined to comment on Utah’s filing.

The federal appeals court case is Kitchen v. Herbert, 13-4178, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit (Denver). The lower court case is Kitchen v. Herbert, 13-cv-00217, U.S. District Court, District of Utah (Salt Lake City).

To contact the reporter on this story: Joel Rosenblatt in San Francisco at jrosenblatt@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net

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