The new Attorney General of Utah, Sean Reyes, has justified the state’s decision to spend taxpayers’ money on challenging the recent ruling in favour of equal marriage.

Just moments after being sworn in on Monday, Attorney General Sean Reyes told reporters that the state is ready to appeal US District Judge Robert Shelby’s landmark ruling by taking it to the US Supreme Court.

On 21 December, Judge Shelby declared Utah’s ban on equal marriage unconstitutional.

Since the ruling, more than 900 same-sex couples have married in the state.

The Utah Attorney General’s Office has hired Monte Stewart, an attorney who founded the Marriage Law Foundation, an anti-equal marriage legal group, to assist with its challenge.

It’s anticipated the appeal could cost Utah taxpayers $2 million (£1.2m). It could take a year for a stay to be granted by the US Supreme Court or for the case to reach the court.

Mr Reyes, a Republican who has the support of Utah Governor Gary Herbert, said: “We’re willing to spend whatever it takes to protect the laws and the will of the people.”

Mr Reyes admitted he does not yet “know the exact price tag, but that’s part of the process of evaluating and engaging outside counsel.”

The Republican controlled Utah House of Representatives authorised legal expenditure for the challenge last Friday.