SALT LAKE CITY — Backers of a petition supporting traditional marriage delivered a list of more than 18,600 signatures to Gov. Gary Herbert's office Friday, saying Utahns don't need to be ashamed of taking that stand.
But only the first names of the mostly Utahns who signed the petition on the Facebook page of the Sutherland Institute, a conservative think tank based in Salt Lake City, were given to the governor.
The petition comes as the U.S. Supreme Court is considering whether to take the state's appeal of lower court rulings that struck down a voter-approved Utah constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman.
Bill Duncan, director of the institute's Center for Family and Society, said it can be difficult for people to show their support of traditional marriage when the legalization of same-sex marriage is seen by some as inevitable.
"You think about people who are willing to step forward and say, 'We're willing to take even a little bit of a risk and speak publicly on the issue,' when so many people who do are, you know, looked down on," Duncan said.
Standing near a stack of more than 18,600 sheets of blank paper representing each of the petition signers, Duncan said the effort's impact counters the message that traditional marriage supporters should "just be quiet and wrap up that support."
"That's really kind of a fundamentally un-American way of seeing the world. We think that everyone, regardless of whether the government ever agrees with their view, ought to be able to express that," he said.
Earlier this week, former Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. said he believes the legalization of same-sex marriage is inevitable. Huntsman, a Republican, endorsed civil unions while in office and later urged conservatives to join him in supporting same-sex marriage.
Duncan said the petition helps give Utahns a voice in that discussion.
"Support for marriage is not something anyone needs to be ashamed of. It can completely co-exist with support for the rights of all people, and we feel those things are not contradictory," he said.
Laura Bunker, president of United Families International, said the petition thanks the governor and Attorney General Sean Reyes for their work "to uphold Utah law even as elected officials in others states have refused to do the same."
Bunker said that by submitting the petitions to the governor, "we stand with millions of our friends across Utah and the United States who believe that marriage between a man and a woman is the critical foundation for civilization."
The governor's spokesman, Marty Carpenter, said the petition was received by the governor's director of constituent services and "will be reviewed and filed according to our standard procedure."
A "Stand for Marriage" rally is scheduled to be held at 7 p.m. at Sept. 18 at the Capitol rotunda, sponsored by the Provo-based Celebration of Marriage. The group is also holding a conference on traditional marriage the following day in Provo.
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