December 30, 2013
The state of Utah may be about to spend $2 million in its defense of its anti-gay marriage laws, according to reports. As EqualityOnTrial noted last week, state officials have said they will involve outside counsel in the case. The move to pass the case off to outside lawyers comes after many LGBT activists and some legal observers have harshly criticized the state’s performance so far.
State Republicans are on board with the decision:
“We need the best we can get,” House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, said after a House GOP leadership meeting Friday with newly named Attorney General Sean Reyes. “He’s coming into this, frankly, in the middle.”
Reyes laid out his case for bringing in help to seek a stay from the U.S. Supreme Court of last Friday’s ruling striking down Amendment 3, a decision resulting in same-sex marriage being allowed in Utah.
He has said he also intends to use the outside counsel to bolster the state’s appeal of U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby’s ruling to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals and possibly to the Supreme Court.
After hearing Reyes’ strategy and the projected cost, Lockhart said the House Republican majority leadership “felt comfortable telling him, ‘Move forward with what you think is in the best interest of the state.’ “
As of this writing, there’s no word on who the state could hire.
In a similar situation, Republicans in the US House of Representatives hired well-known and highly respected attorney Paul Clement to handle the defense of Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in federal court. Clement made arguments in defense of the law in the Supreme Court, but they ultimately ruled against him in United States v. Windsor. DOMA’s defense cost over $3 million.
The Utah case is already headed to the Supreme Court, at least in a preliminary stage: Utah plans to ask Justice Sotomayor for a stay of the district court decision, while the case is on appeal to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.
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