Saturday, Aug. 23, 2014

Utah attorney general encourages traditional marriage supporters to 'take the high road'

By Lisa Riley Roche, Deseret News

Published: Fri, April 11 11:55 p.m. MDT

 Ali Bell attends a press conference to thank Utah's legal team for their defense of Utah's constitutional Amendment 3 before the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals at the state Capitol in Salt Lake City on Friday, April 11, 2014.

Ali Bell attends a press conference to thank Utah's legal team for their defense of Utah's constitutional Amendment 3 before the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals at the state Capitol in Salt Lake City on Friday, April 11, 2014.

(Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes urged supporters of traditional marriage Friday to "take the high road" as the Amendment 3 case goes through the courts but said he would not apologize for defending the state.

"We are not motivated by hate. We are not targeting out of animus or any sinister motives any particular individuals or families in Utah," Reyes said during a gathering in the state Capitol rotunda organized by Utah's Marriage Coalition.

Reyes said he delivered a similar message Thursday, after the state argued before the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver in favor of the voter-approved constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

"I feel sorry whenever people are feeling hurt. And tough policy decisions, when they're made, can hurt people and their families. But what I'm not sorry for, what I won't apologize for, is standing up to defend the laws of the state of Utah," he said.

The crowd of about 100 people applauded and Reyes expressed hope that Utahns can have "civil, respectful and positive discussion and even debate on this issue as it works its way up" the courts.

The attorney general then urged them "to continue to take the high road, to continue to be respectful and empathetic." He said his office was not making statements about the case, which is now in the hands of a three-judge panel.

Friday's rally marked the end of a week of rallies on both sides of the same-sex marriage issue.

On Monday, supporters of same-sex marriage held a sendoff rally for the plaintiffs in the case and their attorneys. At the Library Square rally, Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker applauded them for their courage.

“On behalf of Salt Lake City and all the people here tonight, thank you for standing up for marriage equality,” Becker said to a crowd of supporters.

Becker is co-chair of the recently formed group Utah Unites for Marriage, which this week launched two commercial messages featuring Utahns advocating for marriage as a legal and civil right. Rallies were also held in Colorado at the site of the 10th circuit Court, and back in Utah Thursday night.

Gene Schaerr, the attorney hired by the state after a federal judge overturned Amendment 3 last December, stood by Reyes' side in Friday's pro-traditional marriage event, but did not address the crowd. He told a reporter, "I've said what I have to say."

Sen. Margaret Dayton, R-Orem, and other speakers thanked Reyes and the state's legal team for their efforts. Dayton said Amendment 3, passed in 2004, had the support of a majority of lawmakers as well as a majority of Utahns.

Eleven-year-old Heather Ellis said the definition of marriage "sounds pretty obvious to me" and asked "why should recognizing an adult relationship of choice be more important than recognizing" the needs of children.

"Two moms can't be a dad and two dads can't be a mom," Ellis said. "Children deserve one of each."

She thanked the state's lawyers "on behalf of all children." Later, she told a reporter it was her first time speaking before a crowd. "It felt great," Ellis said. "I just love my cause."

Contributing: McKenzie Romero

Email: lisa@deseretnews.com, Twitter: DNewsPolitics

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1. DanO
Mission Viejo, CA,
April 11, 2014

Eventually, the truth will come out that "traditional marriage" is not under attack. Keeping gays and lesbians from getting married will not change the number of children raised in single-parent homes, nor will it change the number of children raised in two parent homes of the same gender, nor will it reduce the number of children raised in two parent homes of the opposite gender. It's yet another fallacy. Schaer could not point to any factual evidence that marriage equality will do anything that harms "traditional" marriage and even admitted that further denial of marriage rights will continue to harm the children that are being raised in same-gender parented families.

2. Jeff Harris
Edmonds, WA,
April 11, 2014

The attorney general then urged them "to continue to take the high road, to continue to be respectful and empathetic."

It's not possible to be respectful and empathetic at the same time you are denying someone fundamental protections under the law that you take for granted. It's simply not possible.

3. Snapdragon
Midlothian, VA,
April 11, 2014

I don not even know what he is saying by taking the high road. Traditional marriage is not a personal attack on anyone. The fact that there has never been gay marriage before shows it has not naturally been a part of marriage, ever. Biology is not Bigotry.

4. DanO
Mission Viejo, CA,
April 11, 2014

Also, there are cultures not recorded in the Bible that have honored same-gendered unions. Just because one hasn't done the research, doesn't mean that same-gendered unions didn't exist. Also, the form of heterosexual marriage known today is a relatively new construct.

5. LovelyDeseret
Gilbert, AZ,
April 11, 2014

Hiring Gene Schaerr was brilliant. He didn't need to be bailed out in the oral arguments by the Judges. He stated his arguments so well that the other side was forced to disown Judge Shelby's rational for his ruling.
With all that said it is hard to not feel animus towards the gay community, not for being gay or wanting gay marriage but for trying to force it upon us and then demonizing us if we disagree with them.