Legislative leaders express support for Utah's court challenge on same-sex marriage

Jan 28 2014 - 8:14am

SALT LAKE CITY - State legislative leaders are standing firmly behind Gov. Gary Herbert in his appeal of a federal court decision allowing same-sex marriage in Utah.

House Speaker Rebecca Lockhart, R-Provo, and Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, both expressed support of Herbert's action to request a stay of U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby's decision in December, overturning Amendment 3 of the state constitution.  Shelby's decision opened the way for same-sex couples to marry throughout the state for 17 days until a state appeal resulted in a stay in court, pending an appeal of the Shelby decision.

 "We feel like that the people spoke on this issue many years ago and we have a constitutional amendment, that's a jurisdiction that we feel like is a state jurisdiction.  We're going to fight vigorously to protect that jurisdiction and do what we can to support the voice of the people in regards to Amendment 3," Niederhauser said.

Lockhart said the issue deals with state sovereignty, rights of states.

"The people of Utah put in the state constitution for support of marriage being between a man and woman. I believe it is appropriate for the state to defend that, which is what we are doing," Lockhart said.

Lockhart said she is not comfortable with the idea of discriminating against anyone, but she said she separates the morality and religious discussion on the matter, from the federalism discussion.

'For me this has always been a state sovereignty issue.  For me on that issue of the definition, that's where it lies in the federal discussion, not the morality discussion," Lockhart said.

Rep. Greg Hughes, R-Draper, suggested legislators play a lot of attention to definitions in law and state code.  He said in creating those definitions, lawmakers never wanted to pit religious liberties against the issue of discrimination.

"If you have definitions that have the power to shut down faith- based adoptions, we need to make sure we're not putting two noble goals against one another.  That is the discussion that is being had with our colleagues now," Hughes said.

Sen. Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake City, said he hopes state lawmakers will keep cool heads until the courts rule on the matter, and not get into legislation, which makes matters worse.  He described dealing with the issue as a careful balancing act. 

Herbert has defended the state's legal challenge of the Shelby ruling, saying he is following the will of the people in defending the law, which is on the books.



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