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Utah asks U.S. top court to hear gay marriage case

By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Utah officials on Tuesday filed court papers asking the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold the state's ban on gay marriage.

If the court agrees to hear Utah's case, it could lead to a ruling of national scope on the legality of gay marriage bans.

The nine-member court will not decide whether to hear the case until the fall. If it does take the case, a ruling would be expected by the end of June 2015.

"My responsibility is to defend the state constitution and its amendments as Utah citizens have enacted them,” Utah's Republican attorney general, Sean Reyes, said in a statement.

Utah's request is the first of several expected from various states in coming months as officials contest a series of rulings that have struck down gay marriage bans.

In a related development, Virginia's Democratic attorney general, Mark Herring, said on Tuesday he also intends to ask the Supreme Court to decide the issue. Herring backs gay marriage and supported the July ruling by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals striking down Virginia's ban. He said in a statement that he is seeking high court review because he wants a "final resolution that affirms the fundamental right of all Virginians to marry."

Voters approved Utah's ban in 2004, while Virginia's was enacted in 2006.

In June, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver upheld a lower court ruling that struck down Utah's ban. The court reached the same result in a case concerning Oklahoma's ban.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Grant McCool)

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