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SALT LAKE CITY — Sen. Mike Lee says he doesn't know if same-sex marriage will become legal across the country, unlike Utah's senior senator who sees it as inevitable.
"What I do know is that it's wrong for these decisions to be made by federal judges," the first-term Republican said Thursday.
Lee also compared the federal government to Godzilla when it comes to religious freedom during an interview on KSL NewsRadio's "The Doug Wright Show." As government grows, he said, those rights become more endangered.
"Sometimes government steps on religious liberty, perhaps inadvertently, but it does so just because government's big," he said.
On Wednesday, seven-term GOP Sen. Orrin Hatch said anyone who doesn't believe gay marriage will become the law of the land hasn't been watching what's going on.
"The trend right now in the courts is to permit gay marriage, and anybody who doesn't admit that just isn’t living in the real world," Hatch said. "I don't think that's the right way to go. But on the other hand, I do accept whatever the courts say."
Lee said the decision should rest with states, not courts, because nothing in the Constitution prohibits states from recognizing marriage as an institution between a man and a woman.
"That’s where those decisions need to be made. They shouldn't be thrust upon the states by federal judges who aren't elected. They're not accountable to anyone who is elected," he said.
Utah's appeal of U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby's decision overturning the state's ban on same-sex marriage rests with the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which could rule any day.
"We will be ready to analyze whatever decision comes down from the 10th Circuit," Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes said earlier this week.
In a separate case, the state hasn't decided whether to appeal U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball's ruling last week forcing recognition of gay and lesbian marriages performed in Utah during the brief time it was legal. Kimball stayed his decision for 21 days.
"I think the judge was wise in giving us time to assess that. We haven't made any decisions yet. We're looking at all of our options," Reyes said.
Regardless of the outcome in Utah, the same-sex marriage question will likely reach the U.S. Supreme Court. The Utah case could be one that the high court takes up.
Lee predicts eight of the justices will be split with Justice Anthony Kennedy being the swing vote.
"I'm not sure which way it will go," he said. "It could go either way."