Equality Utah Works to Overturn Constitutional Protection of Marriage

Equality Utah Works to Overturn Constitutional Protection of Marriage

ufilogoAt the beginning of a new year, January 2009 brings renewed goals, and hope for prosperity and peace, but it also brings with it five new bills designed by Equality Utah, a group actively pursuing political support in “securing rights and equality for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community” to create public confusion while usurping Utah’s Constitutional Amendment 3 that passed in 2004 – with the help of a powerful ally.

As reported in Salt Lake Tribune and stated on Equality Utah’s, the five pieces of legislation create a public relations nightmare for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Utah’s most influential church. Equality Utah hopes that the church, whose members make up a large percentage of the electorate, will coalesce to what they call “common ground”. In reality their Common Ground Initiative is a political attack on the family and the constitution. 

To better understand why, let’s review Utah Constitutional Amendment 3, and compare it to the bills proposed by gay advocates to see how the bills undermine traditional marriage and families. Utah Constitutional Amendment 3 states:

1. Marriage consists only of the legal union between a man and a woman.
2. No other domestic union, however denominated, may be recognized as a marriage or given the same or substantially equivalent legal effect.

Here is a summary of Equality Utah’s proposed bills
1.  Hospitalization and medical care — This bill will mandate that insurance plans, which extend benefits to an employee’s spouse, also cover an employee’s partner.

2.  Fair housing and employment — The Fair Housing and Workplace bills will add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of characteristics employers and landlords may not consider when making employment or housing decisions.

3.  Probate rights – wrongful death amendments — This bill removes barriers to inheritance and insurance. (It allows same sex partners the same financial benefits as married couples in the case of a wrongful death)

4.  Domestic partner rights and responsibilities act — This bill creates a statewide domestic partner registry as exists in California and attaches rights of inheritance, insurance and fair housing.

5.  Repeal of part two of Utah’s Amendment 3 — A registry that covers inheritance, housing and insurance is not the legal equivalent of marriage. This bill will repeal the portion of Amendment 3 which states “no other domestic union, however denominated, may be recognized as marriage or be given the same or substantially equivalent legal effect.”  

Amendment 3 was created as a safeguard to protect the sacred union of marriage between a man and a woman.  It purposely does not include same sex partners in the definition of marriage, and it purposely gives traditional marriage special legal privileges that the second part of Amendment 3 enforces.
Each of these five proposed bills puts a disclaimer on the second part of Amendment 3, changing this definition to read in effect, “some other domestic unions may be recognized as marriage or be given the same or substantially equivalent legal effect.”  The first four bills basically allow same sex partners to have one or more of the same legal privileges as traditional married spouses, and the fifth bill blatantly changes the Amendment 3 definition of marriage.  This would break down the legal, political, and social strength society has given to traditional marriage, in recognition of how it has held society together for thousands of years.

Those in opposition to traditional marriage and family use diverse means to persuade others to support their agenda, including extending benefits to others who are not in same-sex relationships, such as a grandmother living with a grandchild.  But this is just a smokescreen to hide the real focus explained by Equality Utah executive director Mike Thompson.  “Proposition 8 has created a great divide. Now is the time to look for opportunities to bridge that divide and create the needed protections, rights and responsibilities for Utah’s gay and transgender people. This will be Equality Utah’s focus and we ask the LDS Church to support these efforts.” 

Mr. Thompson was referring to statements from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which have been repeatedly misquoted and misinterpreted, as a tactic to win the support of LDS members.  These statements were made in light of Proposition 8, stating that the Church would not pursue overturning laws already existing in California.  In the Washington Post LDS Church spokesman Michael Otterson clarified that “the church’s statement was based on civil unions in California and that no decision has been made regarding similar rights in Utah. I don’t want to give the impression that the church is saying civil unions in all cases are OK.”  

The complete statement from the LDS Church reads, “The Church does not object to rights (already established in California) regarding hospitalization and medical care, fair housing and employment rights, or probate rights, so long as these do not infringe on the integrity of the family or the constitutional rights of churches and their adherents to administer and practice their religion free from government interference.”  

United Families Utah believes the passage of the bills proposed by Equality Utah will “infringe on the integrity of the family”, and based on the evidence in other states, will infringe upon “the constitutional rights of churches”.   

As Representative Lorie Fowlke said at the Nov 19 Legislative Judiciary Interim Committee meeting, “it is the beginning of a recognition of some other type of relationship that has the same kind of validity that a marriage was created for.”  

The passage of even one of these bills would give governmental endorsement, approval, and recognition of same sex and non-marital cohabiting relationships.  It would also give them statutory rights of “substantially legal equivalent effect” as married couples, conflicting with Utah Amendment 3.  

The legislative battle begins January 26.  The stakes are high, and the eyes of the nation will be upon Utah. Openly gay legislators are openly adamant about these bills. They didn’t succeed last year in passing gay rights legislation, however, “That could change this January,” said Senator Scott McCoy.  

That which seemed unlikely in California came to a close call, and that which seemed unheard of in Utah has already begun.  An intentional wave of corruption to the definition of traditional marriage and family is emerging here in our state and must be stopped.

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