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Utah asks court for more time to prepare defense of state’s gay marriage ban

Friday, January 17, 2014
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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah state officials are asking a federal appeals court for more time to prepare arguments in defense of the state’s same-sex marriage ban – in part to be able bring their newly-chosen team of private attorneys up to speed.

utah-marriage-licenseThe Utah attorney general’s office is asking for a 10-day extension to prepare a “fulsome, detailed and quality” brief, court documents filed Friday show.

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has set a deadline of Jan. 27 for opening briefs. The Denver-based court has set an expedited schedule.

A federal judge overturned Utah’s gay marriage ban on Dec. 20. Hundreds of couples married until the U.S. Supreme Court halted the weddings on Jan. 6.

Utah announced Thursday it will pay $300,000 to have three out-of-state attorneys to handle its appeal before the 10th Circuit Court. The lead attorney is Gene Schaerr, a Utah native who is leaving a Washington, D.C., law firm to lead the legal team.

Attorneys on the other side of the case also are enlisting help. Salt Lake City attorneys Peggy Tomsic and James Magleby will get help from lawyers at the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

The state says in the court papers that it brought in private lawyers because of the importance of the issue and the possibility the case could make it to the U.S. Supreme Court.

It took the state until this week to choose the team of attorneys because of state procurement law and its intent to find the most qualified lawyers, the court filing shows.

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The state says it has been working to prepare the first brief, but it asks the appeals court for a “modest” amount of time to get Schaerr’s assistance.

The same circuit court is weighing an appeal from county officials in Oklahoma of a federal judge’s ruling this week overruling the state’s gay marriage ban.

Utah cites the Oklahoma as another reason to set back the deadlines. The state suggests the appeals court may wan t to put the two cases on a similar briefing schedule to save resources.

In the request, Utah argues to the appeals court that the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to put a halt on the marriages shows an interest from the higher court and a desire by the justices that the appeal is “handled in an orderly way befitting the important issues being addressed.”

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