SALT LAKE CITY -- A bill requiring every county in the state to have someone on hand to perform same-sex marriages while also allowing officials to exempt themselves from performing marriages for same-sex couples, passed in the Utah House Wednesday night.
Senate Bill 297 was presented on the floor of the House, where it was passed with a 66-9 vote. It requires every county clerk's office in the state to have at least one employee in the office, or on standby in the community, ready to perform a same-sex marriage during regular office hours but allows state officials, like county clerks, to opt out of performing same-sex marriages.
If a county clerk refuses to perform a same-sex marriage, then they won't be permitted to perform any marriage, gay or straight. This bill not only ensures every same-sex couple the right to get married, but it also grants any county employee the right to refuse to marry an LGBT couple, whether it's for religious reasons or any other reason.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gave this statement regarding the bill:
“The Church has been consistent in its support of marriage between a man and a woman while teaching that all people should be treated with respect. There have been various attempts discussed by lawmakers to deal with the changing definition of marriage in our state. We are supportive of SB 297 because it is a more balanced and fair approach to marriage and religious freedom protections.”
Members of the public, who are typically on opposite sides, spoke out in favor of the bill.
"The beauty of this session is that we are all having difficult conversations together. This is new, this session has truly been a game changer and we see it as a positive trend for the future," said Troy Williams of Equality Utah.
"This is a great bill that protects the institutions that need to be protected and I would ask you to vote yes," said Gayle Ruzicka of Utah Eagle Forum.
Senator Stuart Adams is the sponsor of the bill, which was passed unanimously during a special committee hearing Wednesday.
"In the spirit of everything we're trying to do, we had stake holders on both sides put aside some of their deep seeded feelings to try to find balance," Adams said.