(Salt Lake City, Utah, August 28, 2014)—Today, the three couples challenging the State of Utah’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples asked the United States Supreme Court to accept the request of Utah state officials to review the case. In the brief filed today, the plaintiffs argue that Supreme Court review is required because same-sex couples in Utah and across the country urgently need to have the security of marriage wherever they work or travel to fully protect themselves and their families. The brief argues that only a Supreme Court decision affirming their right to marry and to have their marriages respected nationwide can resolve this fundamental inequality.
The plaintiff couples—Kody Partridge and Laurie Wood, Derek Kitchen and Moudi Sbeity, and Kate Call and Karen Archer—argue that state laws banning marriage equality violate the U.S. Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection and due process. The couples, who won favorable decisions from lower federal courts, asked the Supreme Court to review the case because the marriages of same-sex couples will not truly be equal unless they are respected throughout the country.
In their request, the couples say: “At stake in this case is the liberty of an entire class of Americans, who urgently need a ruling from this Court that they are able to marry and to have their marriages recognized on an equal basis with other citizens. In the past year, lower courts around the country have correctly recognized that state laws prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying violate the Constitution. Yet because these rulings do not apply nationwide, same-sex couples continue to experience great uncertainty and serious harm. They cannot plan for their own and their children’s futures secure in the knowledge that states may not strip them of legal recognition of their familial relationships when they move or travel.”
The couples in the case—Kitchen v. Herbert—are represented by lead counsel Peggy Tomsic of the Salt Lake City law firm of Magleby & Greenwood, P.C., Shannon Minter of the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), Mary Bonauto of Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), and former acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal of the law firm of Hogan Lovells.
“Laurie and I have been together for many years and we want to be treated as equal citizens, with our relationship honored the same way that the marriages of our parents, family members, and friends have been respected,” said Partridge about today’s filing. “We hope the Supreme Court will recognize that our long-standing relationship deserves the same respect that other couples receive through marriage.”
“These couples and many others like them in Utah want nothing more, and nothing less, than to be able to marry the person they love and to have their marriages respected on an equal basis with other married couples in this country,” said Tomsic. “This is one country, and we have only one Constitution. We hope the Supreme Court will review this case and affirm the Tenth Circuit’s ruling that same-sex couples have the same fundamental freedom to marry as others and that the law must treat their families equally.”
“In the 10 years since same-sex couples started marrying in Massachusetts, thousands more have been able to marry across the United States, bringing them happiness and security, and harming no one,” said Bonauto. “It is time to end the legal bans that keep committed couples from standing up and making this unique promise to one another and which would allow their families protection and security everywhere in this country.”
“Same-sex couples experience real hardships as a result of being denied the freedom to marry and to have their marriages respected wherever they travel or live,” said NCLR Legal Director Shannon Minter. “In the past year, more than 30 state and federal courts have ruled that state laws barring same-sex couples from marriage are unconstitutional. We hope the Supreme Court will consider this issue in its next term and will concur that same-sex couples and their children are an integral part of our nation’s fabric and must be given the same protection and respect as other families.”
On December 20, 2013, U.S. District Court Judge Robert J. Shelby ruled that Utah’s laws denying same-sex couples the freedom to marry violate the U.S. Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection and due process. More than 1,000 same-sex couples married in Utah in the 16 days following the ruling.
Utah appealed the ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for Tenth Circuit, which ruled on June 25, 2014 that Utah’s marriage ban violates the U.S. Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection and due process. On August 5th, the State of Utah asked the Supreme Court to consider the case. In today’s filing, the plaintiff couples asked the Supreme Court to grant the state’s request and hear the case as soon as possible.
Kitchen was the first federal district court victory in a marriage equality case after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act in United States v. Windsor, the first such victory in a federal court of appeals, and the first case in which state officials have petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for review.