Attorney General issues statement on submitting opening brief on appeal of same-sex marriage case

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes

SALT LAKE CITY – Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes issued an official statement Tuesday upon submitting his opening brief to the U.S. Court of Appeal for the 10th Circuit in the matter of Kitchen vs. Herbert, the now highly publicized case challenging the state’s definition of marriage. Reyes’ statement follows:

The Utah Attorney General’s Office is dedicated to upholding the laws of the people. Although this particular issue is highly charged, and understandably so, we reiterate our commitment to Utah citizens to defend all Utah laws. Our office’s involvement is not driven by political motives, but rather our sense of duty. The team of attorneys and staff who have worked to defend Utah’s Constitutional Amendment 3 have varied personal beliefs on same-sex marriage, but respect their obligation to defend Utah law 

The brief submitted on Feb 3, 2014 clarifies why the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit should uphold the decision of Utah’s citizens to retain the marriage definition that has been in place since the State’s inception.

The legal question at issue is not the fundamental right of same-sex couples to enter into exclusive and permanent relationships, raise children, or bequeath property at their death. Utah law already gives those rights. The constitutional question is whether it is reasonable for Utah’s citizens to believe that a child benefits most from being raised by his or her biological mother and father in a permanent relationship, and that such relationships should therefore be encouraged through recognition as marriages.

This issue is a highly emotional one for Utah citizens and deserves the best arguments and representation on both sides. Although the United States Supreme Court held in the Windsor case that states have the authority under the federal Constitution to abandon the traditional man-woman definition of marriage and to redefine it in another manner, it did not expressly answer the question of whether states have the authority to retain the traditional definition of marriage.

The State of Utah firmly believes the definition of marriage adopted by 66 percent of Utah citizens through popular vote is legal not only under the Utah Constitution, but also the United States Constitution. It is the duty of the Attorney General to defend the validity of the state constitution, particularly a provision recently enacted by an overwhelming majority of the state’s citizens.


The issues before the appellate court in Kitchen vs. Herbert stem from a Dec. 20, 2013, ruling issued by U.S. District Court Judge Robert Shelby finding Utah’s marriage statute unconstitutional as to that part known as Amendment 3 which has defined marriage in Utah as consisting only between a man and a woman and affirmatively denying recognition of any other domestic union.

Shelby subsequently denied the state’s motion for emergency stay of the decision pending appeal, the state then appealed to the 10th Circuit to no avail. On Christmas Eve, the 10th Circuit upheld Shelby’s rulings, denied the request for stay, and ordered the appeal proceed on an expedited basis.

The state then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court seeking a stay of the decisions pending its appeal. The request went to Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who receives and reviews appeals of 10th Circuit Court rulings. Sotomayor referred the request to the Supreme Court as a whole and the Supreme Court approved the stay in a brief decision that granted an emergency halt to same-sex marriages in Utah pending the appellate process.

From the time of Shelby’s first ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court’s order stopping same-sex marriages in Utah pending appeal, hundreds of marriages took place leaving those persons in a kind of limbo as to their legal status under various state and federal statutes.

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Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes
Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes

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  • D Hodja February 4, 2014 at 11:27 pm

    What a hateful waste of tax-payers money, even worse than subsiding the Mormon churches building of the mall. Makes it a shame to be from Utah.

  • Rick February 5, 2014 at 4:47 am

    Then move somewhere that you won’t be ashamed to be from. I believe laws should be formed by a majority. This one was. There are plenty of other states that would welcome you with open liberal arms. Pick one and move there. Simple as that.

    • Hunter February 5, 2014 at 8:39 am

      Rick, so under your premise, if a majority of us believed that redheads are inherently bad parents and overwhelmingly voted to prohibit redheads from raising children, then it would be perfectly ok for the state to remove kids from their homes and place them with other families? After all, the redheads can all just move somewhere else, right?

      The danger in your line of thinking is that once you allow one group’s rights to be subject to a vote…where does it end?

      • Rick February 5, 2014 at 8:15 pm

        Like that would ever happen. We used to live in a Republic. Things have changed. We are no longer a nation of laws as evidenced by the current lack of federal pot enforcement. We are now a nation of majority rules. Pot laws in 2 states were enacted by a majority. I respect that. But that knife cuts both ways. Do I agree with gay marrage laws in Utah? Yes. But when a majority changes that law, I’ll respect that too. This is the country we now live in. Either way, I am proud to live in Utah.

        • Hunter February 6, 2014 at 1:34 pm

          I believe a basic civics class or introduction to the Constitution might help you a lot if your answer is “majority rules.” That has never been the case.

    • Danielle February 5, 2014 at 2:12 pm

      Rick, so under your argument, you’d have no problem with being told that private citizens can not own guns if the majority of Utah citizen voted for it?

      • Rick February 5, 2014 at 8:17 pm

        If that ever happens, I move.

  • zacii February 5, 2014 at 5:28 am

    Celebrating the vices of Rome, we must inevitably fall like Rome.

    • Hunter February 5, 2014 at 8:59 am

      Riiiight…Rome’s fall had nothing to do with an overextended military, corrupt leadership and a far flung footprint (globalization). It was all about gays.

  • Craig February 5, 2014 at 7:23 am

    “Our office’s involvement is not driven by political motives, but rather our sense of duty. ”
    That’s such a pile of horse… and a wa$te of taxpayer$ money.
    What exactly is “traditional” marriage being defended against? The 50+% of divorce?
    As soon as the tired old white men in the temple figure out a way to make $$$ out of SSM, our politicians will continue to be puppets of the temple.
    Ed. ellipsis.

  • Jace February 5, 2014 at 7:54 am

    How does denying same-sex marriage rights answer the stated fundamental constitutional question of, “…whether it is reasonable for Utah’s citizens to believe that a child benefits most from being raised by his or her biological mother and father in a permanent relationship, and that such relationships should therefore be encouraged through recognition as marriages.”?

    Nobody is arguing that opposite-sex marriages should not be encouraged through recognition as marriage. If you want to encourage kids to be raised by their biological parents why not outlaw divorce and criminalize consensual sex between unmarried adults? Why no constitutional amendment for those policies if the real goal is “for the children.”?

    What a silly argument for the State to hang its case on. Fortunately, I can’t imagine the 10th Circuit falling for it.

    Of course, that isn’t the State’s real concern. It is a concern about federalism, but one the State knows it is unlikely to win. So they’ve made it “about the children” in an attempt – one would have to guess – to drum up vitriol. State’s rights are fundamental to our union. But this, too, is a loosing battle.

    The only question to be decided is whether marriage is a “fundamental right.” If it is, the State cannot regulate it in a discriminatory fashion. It is no different than civil rights or voting rights. The problem the State has is that politically/religiously, they can’t stomach making the argument that marriage isn’t a fundamental right because that would destroy their “god-given” moral basis. Once conceded that marriage is a fundamental right, the 14th Amendment controls and the State amendment becomes unconstitutional. Easy peasy.

    • Hunter February 5, 2014 at 10:48 am

      My favorite part of their argument is that same sex couples marrying will result in a lower birth rate. First of all….HUH!? Secondly…thank God! Those of us without kids are already paying more than our fair share to foot the bill for the oversized families in this state.

      • Doofy February 5, 2014 at 6:25 pm

        u mean u dont like paying for my 13 kids public schooling? shame on you!!!

  • Doofy February 5, 2014 at 10:43 am

    If the state is going to legislate morality, it’s time to go after those nasty PLYGS!

    • Doofy February 5, 2014 at 11:08 am


      • Bender February 5, 2014 at 12:07 pm

        Ruh-roh, Doofy’s talking to himself. Probably the result of defending the fabulous gays. It’s a dark path you trod son. Wickedness never was happiness.

        • Doofy February 5, 2014 at 4:32 pm

          What I meant was we can’t ban the gays and still let the plygs run rampant with their wickedness. Both are sinful.

          • Laws February 5, 2014 at 7:33 pm

            Bingo. This state hasn’t done a thing about the immoral ways of the polygs.

          • Bender February 5, 2014 at 7:53 pm

            I’m sorry, I wasn’t listening.

    • Laws February 5, 2014 at 7:35 pm

      Go after the polygs? Never will happen as long as there are a wealth of minorities to continue discrimination against.

  • Laws February 5, 2014 at 7:32 pm

    Upholding the laws and rights of the people or just the mandates of the mormon church. Me thinks the latter.

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