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Bill Allows Public Officials to Decline to Marry Same-Sex Couples

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Brian Grimmett

Lehi Republican Representative Jake Anderegg wants to give public officials the right to refuse to officiate same-sex marriages if they object for religious reasons.

House Bill 66 maintains anyone authorized to solemnize a marriage, whether it be a county clerk, the Lt. Governor, a minister or municipal mayor has the right to decline to officiate a marriage ceremony. Anderegg says he’s received emails from local officials across the state who do not want to perform same-sex marriages. Some organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union and Equality Utah questioned the legality of the bill, since same-sex marriage is now legal in the state. Anderegg says that’s why he’s changing the bill to ensure someone is available locally to officiate a same-sex marriage.

“The intent was to provide a religious exemption for people to recuse themselves while at the same time putting the obligation to render services when requested squarely in the laps of the counties or the justice of the peace or the sheriff’s department,” Anderegg says. “However that particular county issues marriage licenses.”

Anderegg says this could mean some counties might have to hire additional employees who are willing to perform the marriages.

“That’s a possibility but it’s a necessary step in my mind if we’re going to strike a balance between providing religious liberties and equal protections,” Anderegg says.

A lobbyist for Utah Association of Counties told KUER the organization has had no contact with Anderegg about the bill as of Wednesday. He wasn’t ready to comment on the details.

Anderegg says he believes his bill reflects the recent announcement from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in which church leaders endorsed statewide anti-discrimination efforts alongside legislation that protects religious liberties. Lehi Republican Representative Jake Anderegg wants to give public officials the right to refuse to officiate same-sex marriages if they object for religious reasons.

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