- (Photo: REUTERS/Jim Urquhart)
A Utah state lawmaker is proposing a constitutional amendment that would allow religious institutions the ability to opt out of performing same-sex ceremonies throughout the state as Utah became the latest state to legalize same-sex marriage.
Republican Representative Jacob Anderegg told reporters he wrote the amendment as a result of several court rulings that interpret the equal protection clause of 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as superseding the 10th Amendment, which protects states' rights.
"Like [hockey star] Wayne Gretzky said, 'A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be,'" Anderegg told The Salt Lake Tribune. "I think this is where the law is going and want to put some extra protection in place."
"No religious organization, association, or society, and no individual acting in a role connected with a religious organization, association, or society, may be required or compelled 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," the proposed amendment states.
Last month a federal judge ruled that the state's ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional because it was in violation of the right to equal protection under the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution.
"The State's current laws deny its gay and lesbian citizens their fundamental right to marry and, in so doing, demean the dignity of these same-sex couples for no rational reason," U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby wrote. "Accordingly, the court finds that these laws are unconstitutional."
The judge was not convinced of arguments put forth by the state that insisted the current ban in Utah was necessary to ensure the interests of procreation.
"In the absence of such evidence, the State's unsupported fears and speculations are insufficient to justify the State's refusal to dignify the family relationships of its gay and lesbian citizens," he stated.
The attorney general's office then filed an appeal with the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals following Shelby's ruling, but was denied. Therefore, it took its motion to the U.S. Supreme Court, requesting an emergency stay.
On Monday, U.S. Supreme Court justices granted a stay in the case while the state appeals a lower court's ruling allowing same-sex marriages in the state.
The Supreme Court released a statement revealing that it ruled to put the marriages on hold in order to "minimize the enormous disruption to the state and its citizens of potentially having to 'unwind' thousands of same-sex marriages."
Same-sex couples in the state began marrying in late December since Shelby overturned the state's 2004 ban on same-sex marriage. Since Shelby's ruling on Dec. 20, over 900 same-sex couples have married in Utah.