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Prince Research Excerpts on Gay Rights & Mormonism – “11 – Utah Anti-Gay Marriage Law”

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11 – Utah Politics 1.0 – Anti-Gay Marriage Law


“As the session rushed to a close late Wednesday night, legislators decided to push through a short bill that would outlaw in Utah same-sex marriages performed in other states or countries.

‘This bill doesn’t change Utah law at all. It is just a precaution,’ said Rep. Norm Nielsen, R-Orem, the bill’s sponsor. The bill was proposed by both gay Republican and Democratic groups. But their opposition held no sway.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has taken a moral position against same-sex marriages, and more than 80% of Utah lawmakers are active members of the LDS Church.

It is already illegal for people of the same-sex to be married in Utah. It is also specifically against the law in 35 other states.

But Utah law also says it recognizes marriages in other states. Thus, if another state legalizes same-sex marriages, then theoretically those marriages could be recognized in Utah.”  (Lawmakers Pass Late Measure to Not Recognize Gay Marriages,” Deseret News, March 2, 1995)


“A battle over the very definition of marriage, which began two years ago in Hawaii, is spreading through Western states as lawmakers hasten to foreclose any possible legalization of homosexual matrimony.…

Anticipating that Hawaii may one day sanctioned gay weddings, Utah legislators voted overwhelmingly this month to deny recognition to marriages performed elsewhere that do not conform to Utah law. This would include same-sex unions.…

In 1993, the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that a refusal to grant marriage licenses to three same-sex couples presumptively violated the State Constitution. It sent the case back to a lower court.

The case is pending and, depending on the outcome, could pave the way to legalized gay marriage.

Such a development would set off not only a social debate but also a constitutional one, over the applicability of Article 4, which says in part: ‘Full Faith and credit shall be given in each state to the public acts, records and judicial proceedings of every other state.’

‘Unless a state explicitly declares an exception,’ State Representative Roger Hunt of South Dakota said, ‘it may be obligated to give full faith and credit to a marriage entered into by two people of the same gender in another state.’…

Lynn D. Wardle, a law professor at Brigham Young University, said the new Utah law was designed to close a loophole that might have compelled local authorities to recognize marriages of gay or lesbian couples—including Utah residents—who traveled to Hawaii to be wed.”  (David W. Dunlap, “Some States Trying to Stop Gay Marriages Before They Start,” New York Times, March 15, 1995, p. A18)


“17 Mar 1995: Utah’s LDS governor, Michael Leavitt, signs the country’s first DOMA legislation which indicated that the state of Utah recognizes only marriages between persons of different sex, including those that might be performed in other states.” (Richley H. Crapo, “Chronology of LDS Involvement in Same-sex Marriage Politics,” 1997)


“This year at Utah became the first state to pass a law prohibiting recognition of same-sex marriages performed in other states. Although no state permits such unions, Hawaii’s blatant ban has been challenged in court.” (“Gay Activism Stands at Crossroads?” Salt Lake Tribune, March 27, 1995)


In mid-March, Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt signed into law a bill, passed the last hour of the legislature, that would change the way Utah accept marriages made in other states.” (“3 LDS Officials Seek to Join Hawaii Suit,” Deseret News, April 14, 1995)


The Salt Lake City school board recently voted to ban all extracurricular school groups in order to prevent one, the “Gay/Straight Alliance,” from operating in city high schools. (Loren C. Dunn to Marlin K. Jensen, March 21, 1996)


Meanwhile, in Utah, the church’s proclamation prompted state legislators, 80% of whom are Mormon, to vote in 1995 in favor of the law that purports to free Utah from having to recognize same-sex marriages that might be performed in other states.

Drafted by BYU law professor Lynn Wardell in Provo, the bill passed with little opposition, making it the first law of its kind in the country. Other states now are crafting similar laws, hoping to carve gay marriage exemptions to the U.S. Constitution’s ‘full faith and credit clause,’ which requires states to honor each other’s laws and decrees, including marriages.

Just as Utah passed its law, leaders of the Mormon Church sought to inject themselves directly into the Hawaii controversy, petitioning unsuccessfully to join the same-sex marriage lawsuit before the Hawaii Supreme Court.  (Tony Semerad, “A Mormon Crusade in Hawaii: Church Aims to End Gay Union,” Salt Lake Tribune, June 9, 1996, p. B1)


“[Lynn] Wardle was instrumental in starting the DOMA movement when he proposed a Utah state law that would refuse to recognize same-sex marriage. That law passed in 1995, and two-thirds of the country has since followed Utah’s lead.” (Heather Danforth, “Same-sex marriage vote placed on Nevada ballot,” BYU NewsNet, October 11, 2002)


“The [U.S. Supreme Court] struck down Texas’ ban on gay sex in a 6-3 ruling Thursday, saying that the law was an unconstitutional violation of privacy. Thirteen states including Utah have long had anti-sodomy laws on their books…

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints declined to comment on the ruling.…” (Diane Urbani, “Utah gays hail court ruling,” Deseret News, June 27, 2003)


Within months of the Baehr decision in 1993, Utah amended its law to clarify that marriage was between a man and a woman. A poll showed that 68% of Utahns opposed gay marriage.

Two years later, Utah was the first state to enact a law mandating that its courts not recognize gay marriages lawfully performed elsewhere. That law was necessary, according to the legislature who introduced it, to prevent gay Utah couples from flying to Hawaii to get married once the courts there approved same-sex marriage.… The bill passed both houses of the Utah legislature by nearly unanimous votes.…”

(Michael J. Klarman, From the Closet to the Altar: Courts, Backlash, and the Struggle for Same-Sex Marriage (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013))