Utah Senate passes bill allowing officials to refuse same-sex marriages

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The Utah Senate approved SB297 Monday night, which allows Utah and local government employees to refuse to perform marriages for anyone other than family if they will not perform marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples for religious reasons.

The vote was 24-5 along party lines. The bill now moves to the House.

Sen. Stuart Adams, R-Layton, sponsored the bill as well as the ‘compromise’ bill SG296. The bill requires counties to have an option on hand to marry any couple, even if the county clerk opts out.

The bill also reiterates federal law, saying religious organizations would not have to recognize marriages that go against their beliefs.

Under-reported is the bill’s provision that no state or local law or ordinance can be created that would suspend a business or professional license because of an individual’s religious beliefs regarding marriage or sexuality.

This can lead to several frightening scenarios, including doctors able to refuse services for LGBT patients; an evangelical security firm could refuse to patrol a Jewish street festival; a Catholic judge could refuse to allow a couple to divorce; and undo any ground gained by the passage of SB296, Antidiscrimination and Religious Freedom Amendments.

It further threatens anyone who sues a business, individual or government official because of their religious beliefs and loses because of this legislation, since they would have to pay all attorney fees and costs.

The Human Rights Campaign, ACLU of Utah and Equality Utah oppose SB297.

“The nondiscrimination bill, SB 296, was the result of meaningful dialogue between many potential stakeholders. We are confident that similar dialogue could result in a bill that protects the rights of clergy and religious organizations, without opening the door to discrimination,” the ACLU of Utah released in a statement.

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