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GOP lawmakers speak in defense of same-sex marriage ban
Amendment 3 » They say existing law upholds traditional marriage but respects everybody.
First Published Feb 11 2014 10:28 am • Last Updated Mar 04 2014 06:14 pm

In a partisan show of support, 81 Utah lawmakers signed on to a brief filed late Monday in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals defending the state’s ban on gay marriage.

Just four Republicans broke ranks with the GOP majority in the Utah Legislature and did not sign the document: Sen. Steve Urquhart of St. George; Rep. Johnny Anderson of Taylorsville; Rep. Craig Hall of West Valley City; and Rep. Jon Cox of Ephraim. Anderson, Cox and Hall said they did not have adequate time to review the brief.

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"I was never asked," Urquhart wrote in an email. "As I asked my Republican colleagues about this, several say they were never asked either. I don’t know who was gathering signatures or how they went about it, nor does my Senate leadership team."

No Democrats are listed on the document, which apparently was circulated individually to lawmakers.

Rep. Jennifer Seelig, D-Salt Lake City and House minority leader, said she learned there was an effort to gather signatures Monday evening after receiving an email apparently sent to her by mistake and thanking her for supporting the Republican effort.

Seelig, a member of the Utah Pride Center’s board of directors, said she took immediate steps to ensure her name wasn’t on the brief.

The lawmakers filed the brief after tabling any bills related to same-sex marriage or LGBT issues, including a bill sponsored by Urquhart that would ban employment and housing discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Lawmakers decided to put the bills on hold on the advice of Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes and Gene Schaerr, an attorney hired to help the state defend Amendment 3 and other state laws banning same-sex marriage.

Seelig said if lawmakers are individually signing on and the effort is being kept separate from institution processes, she doesn’t have a problem with it.

That said, she added: "They are making it a partisan issue. We haven’t talked about it. No one requested to talk to our caucus as a group about it. ... We haven’t taken a position on it as a caucus group."

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Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake and Democratic Party chairman, said, "no one asked me to participate. It is such a pity, as I would have had so many great suggestions."

Rep. LaVar Christensen, R-Draper, who authored Amendment 3 and was one of four lawmakers behind the brief, did not respond to an email from The Salt Lake Tribune asking about the process for collecting signatures.

Anderson said Tuesday he was "very supportive" of the position taken regarding state jurisdiction over marriage.

"I agree states should have and retain jurisdiction over marriage law," Anderson said. "However, in the short amount of time I had to read through the brief, I cannot say I supported the entire argument and therefore I felt uncomfortable signing on."

Anderson declined to elaborate on what gave him pause.

Hall said he was given the brief Monday and told he had just a couple of hours to decide whether to sign it. As an attorney, Hall said he is "extra sensitive" about signing documents he has not thoroughly reviewed and believed he did not have adequate time to go through the 32-page brief.

Cox also said he did not have enough time to review the document, though he supports Amendment 3 and will "certainly fund defending it."

Lawmakers on Tuesday briefly discussed appropriating $50,000 to replenish funds already spent in defense of the measure.

In the brief, the lawmakers argued they have a "profound duty" based on "deep historical roots and experience" that they said shows children are best served by public endorsement of, and limiting marriage to, just one man and one woman. They said the state’s stance on marriage has helped contribute to Utah’s unwed birthrates, high rates of children raised by both parents and high rates of upward mobility.

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