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Parenting suitability focusof Supreme Court arguments

Jan. 3, 2014 at 4:35 p.m.


SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Legal arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court about Utah's overturned same-sex marriage ban have focused heavily on whether gays and lesbians can be suitable parents, provoking a debate on family values in the Mormon state.

Lawyers for the state set the tone for the debate in a 100-page filing with the high court this week that made several references to their belief that children should be raised by straight couples. An attorney for same-sex couples says the state's argument has no scientific backing and that denying gays and lesbians the right to marry actually causes severe harm to their children.

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor is considering Utah's request to put an immediate halt on gay marriages in Utah.

More than 900 gay and lesbian couples have married since U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby ruled on Dec. 20 that the state's ban violates gay and lesbian couples' constitutional rights. The decision came as a shock to many in the state, where two-thirds of voters 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."

Sotomayor, who handles emergency requests from Utah and other Rocky Mountain states, can act by herself or get the rest of the court involved. It's unclear when she'll make a ruling.

In its filing Tuesday, Utah argued that children are best raised by a mother and father in a good relationship. Attorneys pointed to social science research that shows children do best when raised by a man and a woman. By upholding the ban, the state can ensure more children are raised in the optimal environment, attorneys argued.

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