Lehi rep wants to ensure clergy not forced to perform same-sex marriages

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Worried that courts might find that the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment trumps the First Amendment, Rep. Jake Anderegg is sponsoring a bill and a resolution for a constitutional amendment to keep Utah clergy from being forced to perform same-sex marriages.

The resolution, HJR 1, proposes to amend the state’s constitution to prevent anyone from being required to “solemnize, officiate in or recognize a marriage or religious rite of marriage in violation of their right of conscience or their free exercise of religion.” If approved by a two-thirds majority of the Legislature, it would be on the ballot later this year. If approved by voters, it would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2015.

The cost of the resolution — if put on the ballot — is estimated at $15,300.

The bill, HB 231, is basically the same — it would create a law that states a member of the clergy isn’t required to perform a marriage that violates his or her beliefs.

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“This is not a hate bill,” Rep. Jake Anderegg said. “It’s not. This is hopefully a bill that will give the religious right some comfort.”

 

[/pullquote]”This is not a hate bill,” Anderegg said. “It’s not. This is hopefully a bill that will give the religious right some comfort.”

The Lehi Republican said he drafted the bill last year — months before a federal judge ruled to allow same-sex marriage in Utah — but decided to hold off on it. This year he added a resolution to get a constitutional amendment on the ballot, and at this point is planning to run both through the legislative session, which starts later this month.

“A statute is fair enough but can be repealed year to year. A constitutional amendment can’t,” Anderegg said, explaining why he’s sponsoring both pieces of legislation.

He said the state needs to draw a clear line in the sand, and be “actionary now.”

The Equal Protection Clause is being used in arguments to quash states rights guaranteed by the 10th Amendment, Anderegg said, so at some point that could be used against the First Amendment.

“Everyone is saying, ‘Gee, that will never happen,” Anderegg said.

In the LDS Church, a gay member can have a temple recommend and be in good standing, he said. If gay marriage is legalized, that member could want to marry another gay member who also is in good standing. They could ask to be married in the temple, or have a reception at a church, or ask their bishop to perform the service. They’d be told no, he said, and that could set off a court case to challenge the First Amendment. The LDS Church leaders clearly defined their stance in a statement last week.

Anderegg said he believes he has a majority of support in both the House and Senate as well as people in his district. He sent out a survey recently, and of the approximately 170 responses he’s received so far, only three oppose the state defending Amendment 3 — the Utah amendment that bans same-sex marriage.

He said though he has no intentions of abandoning either measure at this point, he’s still in discussions with religious organizations, legislative leadership, colleagues and constituents.

“We want to make sure we’re doing the right thing. Period. And doing the right thing may include doing nothing,” Anderegg said.

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Amie Rose has more than 14 years of experience writing and editing at newspapers in Utah and New Mexico. She graduated from BYU with a degree in journalism. She lives in Utah Valley with her husband, toddler and crazy dog.

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