A Republican lawmaker in Utah introduced a state constitutional amendment in December that would exempt religious institutions from performing same-sex marriages even if the state is required to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, and he hopes that a court ruling against the state’s same-sex marriage ban will help push his amendment through the legislature, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.
“The truth is, the main reason I’m proposing this is that I just want people to relax,” Rep. Jacob Anderegg (R) told the Tribune in an interview published Monday. “If they know they have their federal religious guarantees in writing, I hope they will just relax.”
Anderegg said that while he has had the legislation drafted for about a year, he thinks that the timing for his constitutional amendment may be in his favor right now.
“We’ll see if it sprouts legs and walks in this session,” he said, “or runs.”
The amendment may gain bipartisan support. State Rep. Jim Dabakis (D), who is gay and married his partner once the same-sex marriage ban was struck down, told the Tribune he could support Anderegg’s legislation with one key change.
Dabakis said that if the bill were amended to clarify that everyone had the right to a civil marriage, he could support the constitutional amendment, as it would likely keep gay marriage opponents from worrying about legalizing marriage for all.
“I don’t think anybody wants to be married by somebody that doesn’t want to marry them,” Dabakis added.
Anderegg predicted to the Tribune that the question of whether the 14th Amendment could trump the religious liberty in the First Amendment on the issue of marriage could come before the courts soon.
“I think this is where the law is going and want to put some extra protection in place,” he said.
Anderegg added that he is also working on a similar statute, and that he will see whether that or the constitutional amendment gains more support.