SALT LAKE CITY — Three couples have filed a lawsuit challenging Utah's voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage.
The complaint filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Utah argues that the constitutional amendment passed in 2004 denies gay and lesbian citizens the basic right to marriage as affirmed in the interracial marriage case Loving vs. Virginia.
The challenge comes as the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments on two gay marriage-related cases, including California's Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
Plaintiffs in the Utah case include gay and lesbian couples who want to get married, along with a lesbian couple whose Iowa marriage isn't recognized by Utah.
Utah Attorney General John Swallow said the U.S. Supreme Court will probably avoid making a broad ruling. Swallow said marriage is for states to define.
"I believe that under our federal constitution the individual states retained the sole right to define the marriage relationship," Swallow said Tuesday in a statement. "As Attorney General, I swore an oath to defend the Utah Constitution and will do so by defending against this lawsuit with every resource at my disposal."
The Utah lawsuit names Swallow, Gov. Gary Herbert and Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen as defendants.
Swenson refused to issue marriage licenses to the same-sex couples as recently as Monday.
The U.S. Supreme Court held arguments Tuesday on California's Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage until the voter-approved measure was struck down by a federal appeals court in San Francisco.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court will consider the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996.
It wasn't clear why the Utah couples were suing in a district court when the U.S. Supreme Court is already taking up the question. Their lawyers couldn't be reached Tuesday.