Update: The bill unanimously passed the Utah House of Representatives Wednesday, Feb. 12 without debate, and now moves to the floor of the Utah Senate.
A bill by Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Millcreek, that removes a restriction in Utah law that disallows a gay male couple from becoming surrogate parents unanimously passed through a Utah House of Representatives committee on Friday and is headed to the House floor for debate on Wednesday. HB 234 — Gestational Agreement Amendments removes the restriction that a couple can only enter into a surrogacy agreement if “medical evidence shows that the intended mother is unable to bear a child or is unable to do so without unreasonable risk to her physical or mental health or to the unborn child.” That restriction was used to deny a gay male couple in St. George from becoming surrogate parents.
A St. George judge ruled that he had no choice but to deny the petition of two gay men after a woman and her husband agreed she would carry the child. The judge found that the men had a sound argument, but the law refers only to a mother, meaning a woman, and they both are men.
Both couples appealed the decision to the Utah Supreme Court, arguing the law violates the men’s constitutional rights to due process and equal protection. The justices agreed on the constitutional point but not on their argument that a mother should be interpreted to mean a parent.
The Utah Attorney General’s Office, which generally defends state laws, agreed with the couple, and submitted court papers in favor of their argument.
In August 2019, the Utah Supreme Court ruled that “same-sex couples must be afforded all of the benefits the state has linked to marriage.”
At the time, Equality Utah’s executive director, Troy Williams, said that the court “has stricken discriminating language from Utah’s code and affirmed that equality is the law of the land.”
Arent testified that the bill is mostly a housekeeping measure to make the Utah law reflect the court ruling.
The committee Utah House Judiciary Committee voted unanimously to send the bill to the full House for debate and vote, and send it right to the Consent Calendar so that it will likely be heard on Wednesday, Feb. 12.
[The headline of this story was updated once the Utah House of Representatives passed the bill.]