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Second Bill to Let Public Officials Refuse to Marry Gay Couples Unveiled

peetje2 via Creative Commons

The fight to preserve religious rights in Utah isn’t over. A chief negotiator in the widely-celebrated anti-discrimination bill released Wednesday is now making a case for additional religious protections.

With one week left in the session Senate Majority Whip Stuart Adams has introduced a bill that would allow local government officials to opt out of officiating same-sex unions based on their personal religious beliefs. But Adams says Senate Bill 297 still requires county clerks to either perform the marriages themselves or find someone who will.

“So if somebody comes to the county clerk’s office they can’t be told that they can’t be married,” Stuart says. “The clerk would probably have to designate somebody at that front area that would perform those marriages so that people have that fair, equal treatment.”

Adams and Republican Senator Steve Urquhart are the sponsors of SB 296, which is the landmark anti-discrimination bill the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and LGBT community are jointly supporting. 

Senator Urquhart says he supports Adams’ latest bill, but also remains a steadfast supporter of LGBT rights.  He says SB 297 would not obstruct same-sex marriage ceremonies from moving forward.

“It is a very successful measuring of rights,” Urquhart says. “And a way to allow ceremonies to go forward unimpeded for same-sex individuals while respecting the religious rights of others to say ‘You know what, I don’t feel like participating in that.”

Republican Representative Jake Anderegg is sponsoring a similar bill in the House, but saw pushback because his bill doesn’t require county clerks to make sure the service is still provided. Anderegg says his bill may not be heard in light of Adams measure. 

Whittney Evans grew up southern Ohio and has worked in public radio since 2005. She has a communications degree from Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky, where she learned the ropes of reporting, producing and hosting. Whittney moved to Utah in 2009 where she became a reporter, producer and morning host at KCPW. Her reporting ranges from the hyper-local issues affecting Salt Lake City residents, to state-wide issues of national interest. Outside of work, she enjoys playing the guitar and getting to know the breathtaking landscape of the Mountain West.
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