US: Utah same-sex marriage appeal could be thrown out on technicality

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An appeal against the decision to overturn Utah’s ban on same-sex couples marrying could be thrown out entirely, due to a legal technicality.

The 10th Circuit Appeals Court last week heard arguments from opponents of same-sex marriage, after Judge Robert Shelby struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage in December.

However, according to the Salt Lake Tribune, the outcome of the case could now hinge on a technicality, if it is found the original lawsuit did not name the correct defendants.

The newspaper reports that the original lawsuit was aimed at the governor, the attorney general and the Salt Lake County clerk, as they were deemed “responsible for same-sex couples being denied marriage licenses”.

A letter from Utah’s lead counsel, Gene C. Schaerr, questions whether that decision was correct, which calls the appeal into doubt.

If it is found they were not the correct people to sue, the judges may decline to rule on the appeal, leaving Judge Shelby’s ruling to stand.

Matters are complicated further, as the Salt Lake County Clerk, a defendant in the original case, declined to be part of the appeal.

Judge Holmes said: “You sued the clerk of court, but the clerk of court is not on the appeal, and, it would seem to me that creates a fundamental basis for concern about where jurisdiction lies in this case.”

The Appeals Court judges are expected to rule in the next few months.