Pyle: Anti-equality Utahns not giving up without a fight

First Published      Last Updated Mar 09 2017 09:47 pm

This is the South, and we're proud of our crazy people. We don't hide them up in the attic. We bring them right down to the living room to show them off.

Julia Sugarbaker,

"Designing Women"

This is Utah, and we're a little more conflicted about it.

The other day I posted on the Tribune's website a column by one of the Washington Post columnists whose work we carry. It was a missive from Dana Milbank, to which I attached the headline, "Utah's lawyer says same-sex marriage is deadly."

It wasn't long before we got a call from the Utah Attorney General's Office, pointing out that the counselor in question, Gene Schaerr, is not Utah's lawyer. At least, not any more.

So I changed the headline to, "Utah's former lawyer says same-sex marriage is deadly."

The guilt by association was thus properly reduced. But not eliminated.

Schaerr was the state's lawyer, to the tune of some $200,000, brought in to implore the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals to resurrect Utah's voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage. He lost, and the Supreme Court refused to hear the case. So, at least, the meter stopped running.

Schaerr is back in the spotlight — or at least in Milbank's sights — because the Supremes have accepted a clutch of other same-sex marriage cases, and Schaerr is now the attorney for "100 Scholars of Marriage."

As such, he filed a friend of the court brief arguing that allowing gay people to get hitched will so belittle the institution of marriage that straight people will shun the whole thing and a generation of lonely single women will be driven to some 900,000 abortions over the next generation.

Milbank was among the pundits who lost no time ridiculing the brief as the desperate — and statistically false — argument of a lost case. He noted that marriage rates are down just about everywhere, showing no relation to places where same-sex marriage is legal, and that the abortion prediction is a statistical fraud.

Chicago Tribune scribe Rex W. Huppke wrote, "Schaerr and his fellow marriage scholars follow the classic scientific method known as taking a bunch of unrelated data, putting it in a blender and claiming that the resulting data-smoothie deliciously supports your theory."

Huppke, mercifully, didn't mention Utah.

"Overall, Schaerr and his co-signers construct a 100-page legal brief on questionable statistical foundations," Washington Post data cruncher Christopher Ingraham wrote. "He has not proven terribly persuasive yet, at least in court: He left his legal practice last year to battle same-sex marriage in Utah full-time, a fight he ultimately lost."

There's that durn Utah reference again. Here's another.

Among the 100 are brains from institutions famous and obscure, secular and religious, with degrees in law, medicine, philosophy, theology, economics, political science and English. I counted 13 — a lot, given Utah's small population — from the Beehive State. Eight are associated with the LDS Church-owned, "traditional marriage"-defending Brigham Young University, and two more from BYU-Idaho. The rest are scattered among the University of Utah, Utah State University, Southern Utah University and, perhaps most notably, Matthew Holland, the president of Utah Valley University.

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