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My Turn: How much is too much to pay to discriminate?

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Utah banned same-sex marriage in 1977 and the state legislature passed a 2004 law that defines marriage as a union between a woman and man.
If, however, those two legislative actions weren’t enough, nearly two-thirds of Utah voters passed Amendment 3 to state’s constitution to prevent same-sex marriage, effective January 1, 2005 . . . nine years ago.
But then came U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby who ruled on December 20 that Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional because it violated the equal protection and due process clause in the 14th Amendment.
Sean Reyes, Utah’s Republican Attorney General, says he intends to petition the United States Supreme Court to block Judge Shelby’s ruling but since Reyes doesn’t trust state-paid attorneys to convince a majority of U.S. Supreme Court justices to take away the civil rights of same-sex couples, the state will spend two million or more taxpayer dollars to hire some big-buck lawyers to take the case.
Utah’s Republican House Speaker Becky Lockhart gleefully justified the expenditure of millions of taxpayer dollars to hire outside lawyers when she said, “We need the best we can get.”
Speaker Lockhart clearly shares Attorney General Reyes’ lack of trust for state-paid attorneys who are evidently not qualified to do their jobs.
She’s not alone.
Republican State Senator John Valentine joined the chorus of voices doubting the ability of state-paid attorneys by proudly announcing, “We should be paying for the best and brightest. This is a case that is not only a historic precedent, but it’s one that really goes to the core of what states’ rights is all about.”
So . . . Senator Valentine believes Utah state-paid attorneys are not the best and brightest?
One wonders . . . why are those not-so-bright state-paid attorneys still employed by the state?
Valentine also believes that the $2 million expenditure is justifiable because Utah is defending states’ rights?
The problem with Valentine’s rationale is simply that this is NOT a states' rights issue . . . this an issue of civil rights.
Don't agree? If you asked any same-sex couple married in Utah in the last few days whether this is an issue of states’ right or civil rights, what do you think they would say?
Makes me wonder, how out of touch with current social trends can legislators like Lockhart and Valentine be?
After all, according to a December, 2012 CBS/New York Times poll, 62% of Americans believe that same-sex couples should have the right to choose the same marriage privileges, rights, and obligations as heterosexual couples.
While the Supreme Court may very well grant a petition for a stay to temporarily put a hold on same-sex marriages in Utah, it is important for Utah legislators and Attorney General Reyes to recognize that this is not their father’s America . . . the times are a-changin’.
You can no longer discriminate against anyone based on creed, color, gender, or race in today’s America and it is currently against the law to prevent same-sex couples from marrying in 18 states, including Utah.
More than one-third of states made it illegal to discriminate against same-sex couples because thinking men and women of all political persuasions no longer buy the old lie that says you have to prevent same-sex marriage to ‘defend traditional marriage’.
We understand that even if a same-sex couple moves in next door or down the street, this and future generations of heterosexual couples throughout the neighborhood will not abandon marriage.
There isn’t a whit of evidence to indicate that the numbers of heterosexual couples who marry or stay married have been impacted in any way in any state which ‘allows’ same-sex marriage.
The Human Rights Campaign said it best when it issued the following statement: “Defending discrimination while expending millions of taxpayer dollars to do it is beyond explanation. It should be an affront to all Utahans that their hard-earned tax dollars . . . dollars that should be going into schools, roads, or health programs . . . will instead be used on the wrong side of history.”
If you’d like to ask Becky Lockhart or John Valentine why they are so happily on the wrong side of history, you can call Speaker Lockhart at 801-538-1029 and you can then call Senator Valentine at 801-538-1035.
Let me know what they say, willya?

Comments? Questions? Contact the author at: or Tweet: @DavyZJones



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