Utah Marriage Equality: A Lesson in Hate

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What do the fight for marriage equality and cannabis legalization in Utah have in common? Much more than one might initially think. Both movements face staunch, religious, hateful and bigoted adversaries. Certain members of the Utah Legislature and of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons) and the Sutherland Institute each oppose actual freedom. Freedom to marry. Freedom to grow a plant or choose a natural medication. Freedom to make adult decisions without a Bishop’s recommend. These freedoms are being fought for every day by advocates and activists. By Utah locals and international supporters. Both movements have been underway for years, each advocate giving freely of their time, money and effort.

February 10, 2014 was a cold day in Utah history when 13 civil rights activists were arrested by Utah State Troopers for a peaceful demonstration in the halls of the state capitol. Utah Senate Bill 100, introduced by Senator Steve Urquhart (the same Senator who sponsored House Bill 105, the “Hemp Extract” aka CBD bill passed last session), included Amendment 3, the Anti Discrimination amendment aimed at modifying the Utah Anti-discrimination Act and the Utah Fair Housing Act to address discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The “Capitol 13” as they would infamously become, were arrested on “suspicion of disorderly conduct” (a class ‘C’ misdemeanor) and “disturbing a public meeting” (a class B misdemeanor). Each activist was handcuffed and as he was being led away, Troy Williams yelled “Liberty and justice for all!” and later tweeted his message of support from the back of a Trooper’s patrol car, while cuffed.

Another outspoken advocate for marriage equality in Utah, author and current resident of Boston, Eric Ethington , stated:

Today, the hate and bigotry towards advocates of marriage equality in Utah become even more evident when it was announced that 21 counties (all except Davis, Grand, Piute, Salt Lake, Tooele, Wayne and Weber), 80 Utah legislators, the Eagle Forum, and the LDS Church were joining in the filing of an amicus brief with SCOTUS against the case currently pending. The case which Attorney General Sean Reyes has opposed and, in conjunction with the LDS backed Sutherland Institute, have wasted millions of dollars in pursuing.

Mr. Ethington, author of the 2012 research report ‘Combating the Mormons’ wrote specifically for this article:

It should come as no surprise that the LDS (Mormon) Church submitted its brief in conjunction with other religions. It’s a tactic that the church began using in Hawaii during the 1998 effort to combat that state’s newly-won marriage equality, after their polling showed that other religions, particularly evangelicals, had a strong aversion to Mormons. It has since become standard operation procedure for the LDS Church to provide the money and manpower, while letting other Religious Right leaders be the public face. It is remarkable to see a religion, which enjoys government granted tax-free status, to actively work both legislatively and judicially to ban people who are not even members of their church civil liberties and access to non-religious ceremonies.

The brief (click this link for access to the complete document), submitted by Lynn D. Wardle, Counsel of Record for Amici Twenty-One Utah Counties, of Brigham Young University Law School (Room 518, Provo, Utah, 84602, Telephone (801) 422-2617, Email:wardlel@law.byu.edu), concluded:

Marriage is society’s most enduring and essential institution. From ancient times to the present, it has shaped and guided sexual, domestic,and familial relations between men, women, and their children. As with any institution, changing the basic definition and social understanding of marriage such as by abandoning its gendered definition will change the behavior of men and women in marriage, affect whether they enter marriage in the first place, impact other social relations, and shape society in general. Whether deemed good or bad, redefining marriage away from its historically gendered purposes will have significant consequences. The people of Utah cherish deeply and protect carefully the institution of marriage. The people of Utah overwhelmingly voted to adopt Amendment 3 in 2004 to protect the legal meaning of marriage as a gender-integrating institution for the benefit of themselves and for their posterity.

All Utah citizens, including same-sex couples, benefit from the direct and collateral social benefits that flow from gender-integrated marriage. The federal government, especially the federal judiciary, have no constitutional authority to compel Utah to legalize same-sex marriage by judicial mandate.

Utah clearly does not know or recognize the meaning of separation of church and state. This from the state that holds prayers before every Legislative meeting. This from the state who had a representative (Paul Ray) equated medical marijuana patients with “morons” 5 years ago. This from the state that supports the alienation and prosecution of advocates attempting to achieve basic, civil rights of marriage equality and access to an all natural herb.

The objections to the marriage equality movement and to whole plant cannabis reform will not be enough to prevent either from eventually becoming law as advocates for both will continue to press for their freedoms.

The marriage equality issue is due to be brought to the Supreme Court after their break, in October, with Virginia and Oklahoma also being considered and as of this writing, the “Capitol 13” anxiously await their day in court while support continues to grow.


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