Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes said Friday during a rally of gay marriage opponents that his defense of the state’s same-sex marriage ban in a federal appeals court is not motivated by hate.
Reyes said he decided to defend the 2004-voter approved ban to stand up for the state’s rights to define marriage as residents decide. He again declined to reveal his personal position on gay marriage, saying only that he has friend and families on both sides and empathy for all involved.
“I can assure you, we are not motivated by hate, we are not targeting out of animus or any sinister motives particular individuals or families in Utah,” said Reyes, who has been in office four months.
Reyes spoke during a rally at the Utah Capitol attended by about 100 supporters of Utah’s same-sex marriage ban.
They gathered to thank Reyes and stand up for what they called traditional marriage a day after a federal appeals court heard arguments about the constitutionality of the law. Utah is spending up to $300,000 to have a team of three outside attorneys defend the law in appeals court.
Attorney generals in seven states —Virginia, Pennsylvania, California, Illinois, Nevada, Oregon and Kentucky — have declined to defend same-sex marriage bans.
During a hearing Thursday in Denver, three judges of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals appeared divided about whether to uphold a ruling by a federal judge that overturned Utah’s gay marriage ban. A ruling is expected in the coming months.
The U.S. Supreme Court last year ruled that a law forbidding the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages was unconstitutional, and, since then, eight federal judges have struck down state bans on gay marriage or the recognition of same-sex marriages from other states.
The climate has significantly changed since 2004, when several states, including Oklahoma and Utah, passed the bans. Polls show a majority of Americans back same-sex unions today.
The Utah rally was put on to show gay marriage opponents are still out there and don’t intend to give up. Speakers said marriages between a man and a woman are the only unions that ensure children are raised properly, echoing an argument made by state attorneys to the appeals court.
Mary Summerhayes held up a picture of two gay men with their adopted child, decrying the harm done to children raised without the love of a mother.
Chirley Rodriguez, a mother of six adult children from Lindon, Utah, held a sign that said: “Gay marriage destroys families.” Like many, Rodriguez said her religious views drive her beliefs: “Traditional marriage is God’s law.”
Organizers of the event reminded people in an email promoting the rally that just last weekend a leader in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reiterated the church’s opposition to gay marriage, cautioning that while governments may redefine marriage, the Lord has not. More than two-thirds of Utah residents belong to the LDS church, including Rodriguez.