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Utah A.G. Backs Nevada’s Gay Marriage Ban

Monday Feb 3, 2014
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Sean Reyes
Sean Reyes  (Source:AP Photo/The Salt Lake Tribune, Keith Johnson)

Republican Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes and top law officers from other states are fighting a lawsuit challenging Nevada’s gay marriage ban, arguing no fundamental right to same-sex marriage exists.

The attorneys general, in a newly filed amicus brief in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, claim allowing such unions will lead to "any group of adults" seeking that status and the "tragic deconstruction" of marriage.

"If public affirmation of anyone and everyone’s personal love and commitment is the single purpose of civil marriage, a limitless number of rights claims could be set up that evacuate the term ’marriage’ of any meaning," the brief states.

Once "natural limits (are gone), it follows that any group of adults would have an equal claim to marriage."

Attorneys general from Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and South Carolina also signed the document, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.

Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval is urging the appeals court to uphold U.S. District Judge Robert Jones’ 2012 decision in favor of his state’s voter-approved ban on gay marriage. Eight same-sex couples are appealing the ruling.


At the same time, Utah is appealing U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby’s December ruling overturning its voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. More than 1,000 gay couples rushed to wed before the U.S. Supreme Court granted the state’s request to halt the weddings in January.

The attorneys general, in their brief on the Nevada case, say 33 states adhere to a "historical" definition of marriage of one man and one woman, which predates the nation’s founding and is centered on procreation.

"Traditional marriage is too deeply embedded in our laws, history and traditions for a court to hold that the choice to adhere to that definition is irrational," the filing states. "It creates a norm where sexual activity that can beget children should occur in a long-term, cohabitative relationship."

Extending marriage rights to same-sex couples, which do not rely on a sexual, procreative basis, could require states to recognize any relationships as "marriages" if the parties involved requested that status - from platonic friendships and business partnerships to incestuous or kinship relationships, the attorneys general contend.

"Once the link between marriage and responsible procreation is severed - not simply stretched, but severed - and the commonsense idea that children are optimally raised in traditional intact families rejected, there is no fundamental reason for government to prefer couples to groups of three or more," the filing states.

The 9th Circuit Court’s recent decision in another case, which concluded it was unconstitutional to bar a prospective juror because of sexual orientation, doesn’t apply, the attorneys general said.

"These technical, doctrinal inquiries only confirm what common sense tells us: traditional marriage arises from concern for opposite-sex couples, not same-sex couples," they said.

Democratic Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto has said she’s reconsidering whether to defend the state in the appeal because of the appeals court’s recent ruling.


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