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Poll: Utahns evenly split on same-sex marriage

Support for the repeal of Amendment 3

is strongest among younger, non-Mormon population.

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Nearly 70 percent said they favor amending the Utah Constitution, as one lawmaker has proposed, so church and clergy are not forced to perform same-sex marriages against their religious beliefs. That support cut across nearly all demographic groups — Mormon and non-Mormon, men and women, younger and older — with only Democrats failing to muster a majority for such a change.

Rep. Jacob Anderegg, R-Lehi, is sponsoring a bill and joint resolution to amend the state’s constitution to exempt religious leaders and organizations from being required to participate in gay marriages.

At a glance

New petition to Attorney General Sean Reyes

Supporters of same-sex marriage in Utah submitted a petition with more than 32,000 signatures Monday protesting the state’s efforts to fight a court ruling legalizing the unions.

The petition on change.org addressed to Attorney General Sean Reyes takes aim at the estimated $2 million cost of the legal battle to keep Amendment 3, the state’s ban on gay marriage. It asks Reyes not to use the money of taxpayers who oppose the ban.

“To continue with this decision to use taxpayer money for something that is a religious matter is a violation of the separation of church and state,” the petition reads.

U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby struck down Amendment 3 on Dec. 20, allowing about 1,300 same-sex couples to apply for marriage licenses. Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay on same-sex nuptials as the state appeals Shelby’s decision.

Two other similar petitions with a total of 58,000 signatures were delivered Friday by activists after a rally that attracted more than 1,000 people.

Monday’s petition was started by Sophia Hawes and wife Danilynn Tingey, both transgender women over 40 who see legal marriage “as vital to being able to adequately care for one another as they age,” according to a statement.

Lindsay Whitehurst

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Latter-day Saints recently pushed such a proposal in Hawaii as lawmakers there voted to legalize same-sex marriage. In a statement released last week, the LDS Church said it "insists" on its leaders’ and members’ constitutionally protected right to advocate for religiously held views on marriage and noted that lay leaders may not perform same-sex marriages or allow them to occur on church property.

The Tribune poll is not the first to note a shift in attitude during the past decade. A public opinion survey by Brigham Young University’s Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy in February 2012 found 29 percent of Utahns opposed all legal recognition of same-sex couples’ relationships, down from 54 percent in 2004 when it first asked the question.

In that 2012 survey, 28 percent expressed support for marriage rights for same-sex couples, while 43 percent favored allowing same-sex couples in Utah to form civil unions.

Wesley, 34, a St. George poll respondent, said he opposes same-sex marriage but supports civil unions as a "really good solution to the whole problem."

If the 10th Circuit and possibly the U.S. Supreme Court uphold Shelby’s decision, then civil marriage could be scrapped altogether in favor of nondiscriminatory unions, he said.

"It could be really great to have Utah say we won’t give anybody a marriage," said Wesley. "Marriages could be a private thing. What we do instead is we have domestic partnerships."

Wesley, a former Mormon who now embraces a "heathen" worldview, said his attitude toward homosexuality has become less accepting over time.

"I think I valued freedom more and traditional values less as a Christian," he said. "Now I think that traditional values are what hold societies together. And more often, they need to be upheld against even individual freedom."

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As with marriage rights, Utahns are evenly divided about whether married same-sex couples should be allowed to adopt children — with 45 percent supporting the idea, 45 percent opposing it and 10 percent unsure. Sixty-four percent of respondents are against adoption by unmarried same-sex couples in Utah.

Utah law currently bars unmarried, cohabitating couples — both opposite-sex and same-sex — from adopting children. However, many same-sex couples have adopted children out-of-state; others have children conceived through artificial reproductive technology or from previous, heterosexual relationships. The ability to have a partner recognized as a legal parent is a key issue in the marriage rights’ debate for many of those couples.


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