Utah attorney general encourages traditional marriage supporters to 'take the high road'

Published: Friday, April 11 2014 11:55 p.m. MDT

Ali Bell attends a press conference to thank Utah's legal team for their defense of Utah's constitutional Amendment 3 before the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals at the state Capitol in Salt Lake City on Friday, April 11, 2014.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes urged supporters of traditional marriage Friday to "take the high road" as the Amendment 3 case goes through the courts but said he would not apologize for defending the state.

"We are not motivated by hate. We are not targeting out of animus or any sinister motives any particular individuals or families in Utah," Reyes said during a gathering in the state Capitol rotunda organized by Utah's Marriage Coalition.

Reyes said he delivered a similar message Thursday, after the state argued before the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver in favor of the voter-approved constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

"I feel sorry whenever people are feeling hurt. And tough policy decisions, when they're made, can hurt people and their families. But what I'm not sorry for, what I won't apologize for, is standing up to defend the laws of the state of Utah," he said.

The crowd of about 100 people applauded and Reyes expressed hope that Utahns can have "civil, respectful and positive discussion and even debate on this issue as it works its way up" the courts.

The attorney general then urged them "to continue to take the high road, to continue to be respectful and empathetic." He said his office was not making statements about the case, which is now in the hands of a three-judge panel.

Friday's rally marked the end of a week of rallies on both sides of the same-sex marriage issue.

On Monday, supporters of same-sex marriage held a sendoff rally for the plaintiffs in the case and their attorneys. At the Library Square rally, Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker applauded them for their courage.

“On behalf of Salt Lake City and all the people here tonight, thank you for standing up for marriage equality,” Becker said to a crowd of supporters.

Becker is co-chair of the recently formed group Utah Unites for Marriage, which this week launched two commercial messages featuring Utahns advocating for marriage as a legal and civil right. Rallies were also held in Colorado at the site of the 10th circuit Court, and back in Utah Thursday night.

Gene Schaerr, the attorney hired by the state after a federal judge overturned Amendment 3 last December, stood by Reyes' side in Friday's pro-traditional marriage event, but did not address the crowd. He told a reporter, "I've said what I have to say."

Sen. Margaret Dayton, R-Orem, and other speakers thanked Reyes and the state's legal team for their efforts. Dayton said Amendment 3, passed in 2004, had the support of a majority of lawmakers as well as a majority of Utahns.

Eleven-year-old Heather Ellis said the definition of marriage "sounds pretty obvious to me" and asked "why should recognizing an adult relationship of choice be more important than recognizing" the needs of children.

"Two moms can't be a dad and two dads can't be a mom," Ellis said. "Children deserve one of each."

She thanked the state's lawyers "on behalf of all children." Later, she told a reporter it was her first time speaking before a crowd. "It felt great," Ellis said. "I just love my cause."

Contributing: McKenzie Romero

Email: lisa@deseretnews.com, Twitter: DNewsPolitics

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