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Op-ed: Continuing gay-marriage fight will cost Utah prosperity

Published December 31, 2013 9:29 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

I know what it is like to lose. I am a member of the super minority in the Utah legislature. For many Utahns, the recent court decision on gay marriage has been troubling. But, I ask you to look into the faces of those 700 new Utah families. Into the eyes of their children who now have the stability of two legally married parents. How can that be bad for Utah? For America?

Despite flaws, our grand American 237-year experiment in government is the most perfect governing system ever devised by the mind of man. In many countries, the final arbiter of law is not nine orderly senior folks dressed in black robes. It is the biggest gun or the whim of the dictator who is "the court of last resort."

While I may vehemently disagree with some court decisions (Gore v. Bush, for example), I realize that decisions have to be made. It is impossible to govern 320 million people, be fair and make everyone happy with every decision. My occasional disagreement with the courts is a small price to pay for a time-tested system that over all does a good job of deciding the final rules for a country as vast and diverse as the United States. Sometimes only one vote decides. But that is what the founders envisioned, and, frankly, it works.

Despite these occasional blips, I share a Ronald Reagan optimism about the future of our great country and state. It is morning in both America and Utah.

As Utah politicians run to fight a death match to stop equal civil marriage at every level and at any cost, if they cannot feel the love, I ask them to consider the effect on Utah's economy. Imagine the following conversation between the HR director of Adobe, Goldman Sachs or perhaps one of the many national outdoor manufacturers now headquartering in Weber County.

"We are expanding to Utah," the HR director says. "We need people to move there. You will love Utah but, if the governor has his way, and you are LGBT, you will not be married anymore. More than 1,000 federal benefits (Social Security, etc.) for your partner may be revoked. Both you and your partner may not share custody of your children and certainly you may not adopt more. Additionally, the state will not give you the dignity of any respect for your relationship. Now, who wants to move to Utah?"

The prize is there for states that embrace diversity, civility and respect for all its citizens. The thousand non-polluting $75,000 a year jobs that Utah County recently received from Adobe are real. They are our economic future. However, if Utah cannot accept that there many types of families and all deserve respect, we as a state will not prosper. There are civil marriages and religious marriages. We must keep them separate. Give unto Caesar that which is Caesars. If we cannot, we might forfeit opportunity, not just for LGBT Utah families but for all Utah families.

Jim Dabakis is a state senator from Salt Lake City and chairman of the Utah Democratic Party.