Although it's hardly a surprise to many court watchers, it looks like a legal challenge to Utah's same-sex marriage law will go to the Supreme Court for consideration, after the state announced its intention to appeal to the high court. While the Supreme Court will still have to decide whether it's taking the case or not, the move brings us one official step closer to possibly seeing a Supreme Court decision on states' same-sex marriage bans by this time next year.
According to your neighborhood experts at SCOTUSBlog, here's the likely scenario for the Supreme Court's consideration of this case:
Corrected: SCOTUS will act on the Utah #ssm petition by late-2014, likely grant it, hear argument in March 2015, and rule (5-4) in June 2015— SCOTUSblog (@SCOTUSblog) July 9, 2014
As the Associated Press notes, it's also possible that the Court could wait for another appeals court to rule on the issue. At least one such opinion, on Virginia's same-sex marriage ban, is expected soon.
Fox13's Ben Winslow first reported the news — he's been one of the more reliable follows for news on the Utah case. Here's a statement he obtained from the Utah Attorney General's office:
To obtain clarity and resolution from the highest court, the Utah Attorney General's office will not seek en banc review of the Kitchen v. Herbert Tenth Circuit decision, but will file a Petition for Writ of Certiorari to the United States Supreme Court in the coming weeks. Attorney General Reyes has a sworn duty to defend the laws of our state. Utah's Constitutional Amendment 3 is presumed to be constitutional unless the highest court deems otherwise.
"En banc," in case you were wondering, refers to another option before the state: it could have asked the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals to rehear its case with an entire bench of judges, instead of the three-judge panel that heard the case the first time around. It's not that common for courts to grant these reviews.
The state's appeal comes in the wake of two federal court decisions that called the law unconstitutional. The first of those, issued last December, ended up opening a brief window for same-sex couples to marry in the state, until the Supreme Court granted a stay on that decision pending appeal. In late June, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed that the law was unconstitutional. "A state may not deny the issuance of a marriage license to two persons, or refuse to recognize their marriage, based solely upon the sex of the persons in the marriage union," Judge Carlos F. Lucero wrote in his decision for a panel of three judges. The panel determined that the law violated the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The 10th Circuit decision was stayed pending the state's almost inevitable appeal to the Supreme Court.