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Former Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon is seeking election as chairman of the Utah Democratic Party.
Op-ed: If Utah is in ‘marriage business,’ Constitution says it includes gays

By Peter Corroon

First Published May 02 2014 05:37 pm • Last Updated May 02 2014 05:37 pm

While I’m grateful to the members of my party for my election as chair of the Utah Democratic Party, I want to address an issue facing thousands of families in our state that has nothing to do with party affiliation or ideology, and that’s the question of the freedom to marry.

Many Americans, including myself, thought Utah would be the last state in the nation to perform marriages for loving gay and lesbian couples. We were proven wrong.

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As the same-sex marriage debate continues, it’s caused me to reflect on how my beliefs and position on the issue have evolved over time based on my faith, education and life experiences.

Like many Utahns, I grew up in a fairly conservative family. We went to church on Sundays, which I continue to do. Faith and spirituality remain important parts of my life and always will. Politically, my parents voted primarily Republican and I dutifully did the same in my younger years. My life and beliefs continued to take shape when I went to law school, became a licensed attorney and swore an oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution. The Constitution has guided our great country for more than 200 years. The Constitution provides the framework for all of our citizens to live prosperous lives free from discrimination.

With that upbringing and those influences in my life, the same sex-marriage debate contains many facets for me. First, I consider the Constitution. As someone who pledged to uphold the Constitution, I believe in the freedom of religion. I also believe that individuals have a right to privacy in their personal lives and affairs. Secondly, as a person of faith, I believe marriage is a religious right, too. No clergy, church or religious organization should ever be forced to perform a wedding that violates their religious beliefs.

I believe that, if the State of Utah is going to be in the "marriage business," the U.S. Constitution provides gay and lesbian couples the same access to marriage as straight couples. A recent poll shows that many Utah citizens share this position and are ready for marriage equality. However, I recognize that is not universal and others do not support same-sex marriage.

Wherever people stand in the debate, we should be respectful and caring. For all our neighbors, co-workers, friends and family members who are gay and lesbian, we should not discriminate against them or their children. Utah has caring and generous people. Let us show respect, care and generosity as this debate continues and consider that everyone deserves the right to make a lifetime commitment to the person they love.

Peter Corroon is chair of the Utah Democratic Party and former Salt Lake County mayor.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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