Lawmaker has bill drafted to do away with marriages in Utah

Posted at 8:16 PM, Jun 26, 2015
and last updated 2015-06-27 01:50:59-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- A state lawmaker has reportedly drafted a bill that would get Utah out of the marriage business in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court's historic ruling on same-sex marriage.

FOX 13 confirmed through another lawmaker that the bill would end government agencies' involvement in issuing marriage licenses. The exact language of the bill -- and its sponsor -- are a mystery right now. The bill has been declared "protected" in the Utah State Legislature, and it is unknown when (or if) the bill would be unveiled before the 2016 legislative session.

Such a bill would also be fraught with legal challenges.

Rep. Jake Anderegg, R-Lehi, said it is not his bill but he was aware of it and supported the concept, but acknowledged actually passing such legislation "would be a monumental task." There are dozens of laws including probate, inheritance and other benefits tied to marriage.

"I'd like to see us out of the marriage business and out of liquor distribution business," he said.

Anderegg told FOX 13 on Friday that he worried about the impact of the court's decision, including whether it would lead to polygamy or someone marrying their pet.

"There’s a lot of question marks. I can say this, not much has changed for me from yesterday to today. It's the same world we were living in," he said. "I’m saying that because I don’t think the sky is falling."

Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, Utah's only openly gay state lawmaker, said at a news conference Friday that his colleagues in the legislature might attempt some legislation -- but suggested they were just unhappy with the ruling.

"I'm a Democrat and a gay guy in Utah. I know what it's like to lose!" Dabakis retorted.

An unanswered question in Utah is about public accommodations and religious liberties. While passing an historic compromise bill on LGBT nondiscrimination in housing and employment earlier this year, the Utah State Legislature did not address issues about people with deeply held religious beliefs who may not want to provide certain services to gay or lesbian couples.

Bill Duncan of the conservative think tank The Sutherland Institute, expected that lawmakers would have to address that issue next year.

"The majority of the Supreme Court said that people that believe in marriage as the union between a husband and wife are similar to people who discriminate on race or other things. That means that there will be clearly some challenges to the religious liberties of people who disagree," he said.

Troy Williams, the executive director of the gay rights group Equality Utah, said he expected the Utah State Legislature might entertain some religious freedom bills.

"Our friend LaVar Christensen possibly will have another RFRA (Religious Freedom Restoration Act) bill like he did last year.  But a majority of the Republican-controlled Senate said no, we want to actually collaborate with the LGBT community," Williams said.

Rep. Christensen, R-Draper, said in an email to FOX 13 he was out of town and unavailable for comment.