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Senator says attorney in gay marriage case has conflict of interest
Legislature » Dabakis says Schaerr has conflict of interest, played a role in killing bill against bias.

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Paul Mero, president of The Sutherland Institute, said he has a verbal agreement for Schaerr to come to work for the organization after he finishes writing the state’s appellate briefs, probably sometime in March, and write two policy papers for attorneys and legislators around the country dealing with the same-sex marriage issue.

Schaerr will be paid for his work, but Mero would not disclose how much he would receive.

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"As far as our relationship with Gene, yeah we’re going to bring him on as a fellow. I do not have a letter of agreement signed with him and I have not paid him a nickel, a penny," Mero said. "Maybe you don’t need to know the facts to string together whatever his concern is, but if the facts are important to his concern, then those are the facts I know."

From a larger perspective, however, Mero noted that the advice Schaerr gave to Republican lawmakers also scuttled numerous religious-freedom bills that Sutherland supported.

"I’m glad Urquhart’s bill is dead, but that’s because I think it’s a bad bill and I wish we’d have a full debate on religious-freedom bills," Mero said. "In other words, I’m no fan of the moratorium. The fact that the moratorium killed Urquhart’s bill? Hooray. But I’m not fan of it. I want to have debate on good bills."

Dabakis said, in light of the recent scandal that drove then-Attorney General John Swallow from office, and the role that conflicts of interest played in that saga, he’s surprised the attorney general’s office wouldn’t be more careful — although he praised Reyes for being more sensitive to such issues.

Senate President Wayne Niederhauser said lawmakers are hearing from people on both sides — supporters of the non-discrimination bill and the religious-liberty bills — who want their issues heard this year.

"I guess, unfortunately for SB100, the issue was intensified by Judge Shelby’s decision" overturning Utah’s same-sex marriage ban, Niederhauser said. "I’m confident the non-discrimination bill will get a fair hearing and a fair process at a time when it is not as charged as it is today."


Twitter: @RobertGehrke

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