Utah case puts same-sex marriage issue on track to go before Supreme Court

Utah’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage suffered another blow in a June 25 ruling from the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, and that ruling makes it likely that the issue of same-sex marriage will go before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The 10th Circuit’s decision upheld a December 2013 federal district court ruling that struck down Utah’s ban. The lower court’s ruling was on hold during the state’s appeal to the 10th Circuit.

The June 25 ruling from a three-judge panel of the appellate court was immediately stayed pending the state’s appeal to the Supreme Court. The state attorney general’s office released a statement after the ruling explaining that it would take the issue to the Supreme Court, but a decision on whether to ask the full 10th Circuit for review was yet to be determined.

Ryan B. Frazier, a shareholder with Kirton McConkie in Salt Lake City and the editor of Utah Employment Law Letter, called Utah’s appeal of the December ruling “historic” since it marked the first time a federal appellate court considered the constitutionality of a state same-sex marriage ban.

In an article in the May issue of Utah Employment Law Letter, Frazier explained that the state’s argument was based in part on studies showing children benefit from being parented by a mother and a father.

In the May article, Frazier predicted that the Supreme Court ultimately will hear same-sex marriage cases. “A Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage would almost certainly have a national impact,” he wrote. “And such a ruling would affect how employment laws and benefits may apply to same-sex couples.”