Lawyers ask Supreme Court to allow same-sex unions in Utah

Lawyers for same-sex couples in Utah filed court papers Friday with the U.S. Supreme Court explaining why gay marriage should be allowed to continue in the state.

Attorney Peggy Tomsic said the state's request for an emergency stay on same-sex unions should be denied because Utah has not demonstrated how the weddings are harming anyone else. The state has also failed to show it will likely win an appeal of the Dec. 20 ruling from a federal judge, she said.

Tomsic wrote that the state's' "hodgepodge of articles that purportedly show that same-sex parents are inferior to opposite-sex parents" is not only false, but fails to address the constitutional issues addressed in the ruling.

The 61-page filing came Friday ahead of a noon deadline set by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who can act by herself or get the rest of the court involved. Sotomayor handles emergency requests from Utah and other Rocky Mountain states.

State attorneys requested an immediate halt on the marriages earlier this week, with attorneys saying the more than 900 gay marriages that have occurred in Utah are an affront to the state's interests.

U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby's decision last month came as a shock to many in the state, which approved the ban on same-sex marriage in 2004.

This is the state's third attempt to have a court bring the gay marriages to a halt. Shelby and the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals have already refused to halt weddings while the state appeals what it calls a "rush to marry."

The heavily Mormon state wants the marriages to stop while it appeals a judge's decision, which said banning gay couples from marrying violates their right to equal treatment under the law.

Utah state attorneys argue that children are best raised by a mother and father in a good relationship. Tomsic, who represents three gay and lesbian couples from Utah, countered that argument by saying gay and lesbian couples can also be good parents.

"Respondents agree with applicants that marriage provides enormous benefits for children," Tomsic wrote, "But excluding the children of same-sex couples from those benefits causes severe harm to those children, without providing any benefit to the children of opposite-sex parents."

Shelby's decision came late on a Friday afternoon the week before Christmas and sent people rushing to a county clerk's office in Salt Lake City -- about 3 miles from the headquarters of the Mormon church -- for marriage licenses.

Earlier this week, the Utah Attorney General's Office advertised a formal bid request to outside law firms for help preparing the appeals. State officials have said it could cost $2 million, bringing criticism from a lawyer for couples who sued to overturn the ban and say Utah should give up the fight.

Utah insists that states have the authority to define marriage as between a man and woman. Tomsic argues that the state's rationale for asking for a halt to the same-sex marriages doesn't make sense.

"Applicants cannot simultaneously concede that being stripped of one's marital status causes profound, irreparable harm and urge the Court to inflict that very injury on the married Respondents and other married same-sex couples," Tomsic said.