Utah bill defines marriage

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    By Stephen Vincent

    Gay marriage has been the hot political issue around the nation in the last month, and the Utah Legislature has not been an exception.

    The Utah House passed legislation last week by a 62-12 vote that defines marriage as being between a man and a woman.

    The bill is aimed at strengthening Utah’s marriage laws against a Constitutional challenge. The bill, SB24, which passed the Senate earlier this month and now goes to Gov. Olene Walker’s desk for consideration, has had an interesting timeline.

    In an interview with KUED on Friday, Feb. 20, 2004, Walker questioned the bill’s necessity and said a vote on amending the Utah Constitution on the matter might be a better way to go. Walker did not say she would veto the bill.

    The legislation’s timeline has coincided with many of the national debates over same-sex unions. The House Judiciary Committee considered the bill a day after the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled only full marriage rights for homosexual couples would meet the requirements of the state’s constitution.

    And last week’s vote came amid the controversy in San Francisco that came when Mayor Gavin Newsom legalized same-sex marriages in the city. Three years ago, Californians voted to define marriage as being between a man and a woman.

    Meanwhile, Internet petitions urging for a Constitutional Amendment are making their way from inbox-to-inbox. And Congresswoman Marilyn Musgrave, R-Colo., has reportedly introduced legislation in the U.S. House for the Constitutional Amendment to define marriage as between a man and a woman.

    Musgrave’s amendment also states it will supercede any state constitution and state and federal laws.

    The Utah Code already states marriage cannot be between people of the same gender. And the Code also rejects any marriages from other states that do not comply with Utah’s marriage standards.

    But Sen. Chris Buttars, R-Salt Lake, the bill’s sponsor, said the bill is necessary to protect the state from legal challenges to the Utah Code.

    “The holy grail prize [for those redefining morals] is to redefine marriage as not being between a man and a woman,” Buttars said in the House Judiciary hearing on Feb. 5, 2004.

    “Accepting diversity cannot compromise morality. We are not bound by the liberal values in other states.”

    Critics of the bill say it downgrades homosexuals to second-class citizenry and denies gay couples the same rights guaranteed to heterosexual couples.

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