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First Substitute SB 24, Marriage Recognition Policy

09 March 2004 Published in Legislative Work

Governor Olene Walker

210 State Capitol
Salt Lake City, Utah 84114-0601

March 10, 2004

Dear Governor Walker,

The ACLU of Utah appreciates the opportunity to comment on First Substitute SB 24, Marriage Recognition Policy. This proposed law likely violates the state and federal constitutions, is inherently discriminatory and unfair, and therefore should not become part of Utah law.

Existing Utah law already prohibits marriage between persons of the same sex. However, SB 24 goes further by amending this section to reinforce that definition of marriage, and by denying same-sex couples any mechanism for ensuring that the law recognizes their emotional and financial commitments to one another.

Just as laws sanctioning racial discrimination and prohibiting interracial marriage are unconstitutional, laws forbidding same-sex couples from marrying are unconstitutional. This is in part because the state does not have a legitimate interest in denying the rights and incidents of marriage to couples based merely on their sex. State issued marriage licenses grant couples upward of 1,500 state and federal legal benefits, which are now denied to same-sex couples in Utah. These benefits range from tax breaks to hospital visitation rights to child custody rights. Same-sex couples wish to be legally married not only to confirm their commitments to each other, but also to protect the stability of their families.

Denying these rights and benefits to same-sex couples in Utah is discrimination in violation of the guarantee of equal protection of the law under the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This discrimination also violates the uniform operation of the law provision, article I, section 24, of the Utah Constitution. Further, the U.S. Supreme Court has long held that discrimination for its own sake is inherently improper. This proposed law discriminates against same-sex couples based solely on the sex of the couples.

Under the proposed law, Utah will not recognize or give any legal effect to any marriages, or other unions substantially equivalent to marriage, performed in other states. This refusal will further undermine the stability of gay and lesbian families in Utah.

Discrimination should not be legalized in Utah. We respectfully request a veto of this proposed law.

Respectfully,

Dani Eyer, Executive Director

Margaret Plane, Staff Attorney