Marriage equality supporters, opponents plan dueling rallies at Utah capitol

Marriage equality supporters, opponents plan dueling rallies at Utah capitol

SALT LAKE CITY — Opponents and supporters of gay marriage are planning twin rallies at the Utah State Capitol on Tuesday evening.

The opposing gatherings are the latest square-off over gay marriage, an issue that took Utah by surprise over the past month.

Utah-marriage-rallyMore than 1,000 gay couples rushed to wed when a federal judge overturned Utah’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in late December. Voters approved the amendment in 2004.

Same-sex marriages continued in Utah until early January, when the U.S. Supreme Court granted Utah’s request for an emergency halt to the weddings.

Republican Gov. Gary Herbert then ordered state agencies to freeze recognition of the marriages.

The state has also appealed the federal judge’s ruling to the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which is expected to decide in a few months.

While the case will play out in federal court this spring, it could eventually wind up before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, said Utah is the epicenter for the fight over marriage and how it’s decided.

“Activist judges now feel no qualms in simply putting forward their opinion as the law,” Brown said. “The people of Utah voted on this.”

The National Organization for Marriage, a Washington, D.C.-based organization that opposes same-sex marriage, is holding one of the Tuesday rallies in conjunction with a local group called Celebration of Marriage.

Several hundred people are expected to attend the rally, scheduled for 7 p.m. inside the Capitol, Brown said.

Supporters of same-sex marriage are also planning to rally at 5 p.m. on the Capitol steps.

Bob Henline, the assistant editor at Q Salt Lake Magazine, a gay and lesbian magazine in Utah, is one of the organizers of that rally.

Henline said the goal is to ask Utah officials not to pay to defend the same-sex marriage ban, which he called “institutionalized bigotry.”

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes said the state is paying $300,000 on outside attorneys to help with the appeal.

Henline said his group is also asking lawmakers to approve a statewide ban on discrimination based on sexual identity or orientation.

Last year, the proposal made it further than ever in the legislative process, but it ultimately failed.

Sen. Steve Urquhart, the Republican from St. George sponsoring the measure, has said he’ll keep trying until it passes.

The bill is shaping up to be even more closely watched in the wake of the gay-marriage decision, with conservative groups running television advertisements opposing Urquhart’s proposal.

Henline said more than a thousand people on social media indicated they would attend the rally, but it’s hard to say how many will actually show up.

“I just think we need to get together, show our love, show our demands for our legislat ors and celebrate where we are,” he said.

It appears to be coincidental that both rallies are scheduled for the same night, he said. Henline said he had already reserved use of the Capitol’s steps by the time he heard about the opposing rally.

Some attendees from his event may stick around to see what opponents of same-sex marriage say, but they plan to be respectful, Henline said.

“They have their agenda. We have our agenda,” he said. “We don’t need to butt heads.”

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