By Laura Zuckerman
SALMON, Idaho (Reuters) - Idaho's Republican governor and attorney general petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday to hear their appeals of a court decision legalizing gay nuptials, arguing Idaho residents have the right to define marriage as between a man and a woman.
A ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in October struck down gay marriage bans in both Idaho and Nevada, paving the way for same-sex weddings that have since taken place in the two socially conservative Western states.
In his petition, Idaho Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter said it was time for the nation's top court to resolve "Whether the federal constitution prohibits a state from maintaining the traditional understanding and definition of marriage as between a man and a woman.”
Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden argued in a separate petition that conflicting lower court decisions about whether the federal constitution requires states to sanction gay marriage constituted unequal treatment of states, granting some the right to define civil marriage and denying it to others.
In its October ruling, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that gay marriage bans violate the Constitution.
Florida next month will become the 36th state where gay marriage is legal, in what was the latest in a series of court victories by gay rights activists over the past year.
Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, which represented four lesbian couples from Boise who sued in 2013 to overturn Idaho’s ban on same-sex matrimony, said on Friday she was disappointed to learn of the petitions to appeal - a move Otter had promised.
“It is disappointing that Idaho officials continue to fight this battle, long after the great majority of Idahoans and Americans have embraced equality for same-sex couples and their children,” he said.
In his petition, Otter argued that Supreme Court Justices should choose Idaho’s case over other appeals because it was the only one in which public officials “have mounted a truly vigorous policy defense of the man-woman understanding and definition of marriage.
He said that included "an explanation of its salutary effects on the children of heterosexual couples and why such a definition satisfies any level of constitutional scrutiny.”
(Editing by Victoria Cavaliere & Kim Coghill)