Lawmakers often hedge their bets during the legislative session by breaking up massive pieces of legislation into several smaller pieces of legislation or by presenting bills that have variations that affect the severity of a bill. Lawmakers do this, of course, because they feel passionately about a topic but know that they may have trouble passing the most extreme aspects of a particular idea. This “watering down” of legislation comes from the school of thought that a half a loaf of bread is better than no loaf at all.
Representative Jacob Anderegg (Republican – Lehi) appears to be doing just that with HB 231 – Marriage Modifications, as the concepts presented in HB 231 are remarkably similar to a previous “flagged bill,” HJR 1 – Joint Resolution on Religious Liberty. Anderegg, apparently, is very concerned that clergy will be required to marry same-sex couples in the state of Utah.
This, of course, despite the fact that even supporters of same-sex marriage have acknowledged the First Amendment’s religious protections.
HB 231 says that “A member of the clergy…is not required and may not be compelled to solemnize a marriage when doing so would violate the member’s or the member’s religious organization’s religious beliefs, tenets, doctrine, practices, or the member’s fundamental right to religious liberty.” This language is remarkably similar to HJR 1, which says “No religious organizations…may be required or compelled to solemnize, officiate in, or recognize a marriage or religious rite of marriage in violation of their right of conscience or the free exercise of religion.”
So why two bills with such similar language and intent? It is most likely because HJR 1 is a change to the state’s constitution while HB 231 is a change to the state’s law. Changing the constitution is a daunting and time consuming task that has multiple chances to potentially fail while changing state law, though still difficult, is a much lower hurdle to jump. It is also possible that Anderegg wishes to have something on the books if HJR 1 does happen to pass, as a change to the constitution would require a vote of the people, something that could not take place until November – HB 231 has language that specifically says that it takes effect the moment the governor signs it.
Because Anderegg is repeating his intent, we will repeat our analysis, namely that there is no law that requires religious organizations to recognize same-sex marriage and there is no judge that would require a religious organization to do so. We repeat our concern that, though Anderegg’s legislation appears to be written with the intent of being applied specifically towards formal religious organizations, it is possible that individuals would misinterpret the law and apply it outside of a house of worship, continuing an atmosphere where employers and landlords discriminate against those in the LGBT community on the grounds that, in one particular instance, the state formally says that clergy can discriminate.
The rights granted to married couples, be they homosexual or heterosexual, take place in the sphere of our secular government. The rights granted to married couples in the sphere of religious organizations are held within those religious organizations and are protected thanks to the idea that there is a separation of church and state.
To contact Representative Anderegg, click here or call 801-901-3580
Impact on Average Utahn:
High Impact 5 . 4 . 3 . 2 . 1 . 0 No Impact
Need for Legislation:
Necessary 5 . 4 . 3 . 2 . 1 . 0 Unnecessary
Sound Legislation 5 . 4 . 3 . 2 . 1 . 0 Clunker