Richard Piatt ReportingThere's no shortage of legal opinion over a constitutional amendment to define marriage. A team of conservative lawyers and legislators vigorously defend the amendment. At the same time, all three candidates for Attorney General oppose it. The question is: can voters rely on these legal opinions in deciding how to vote on the measure?
Chances are, if you ask a conservative lawyer about Amendment Three, they'll say they're for it. If you ask a liberal attorney about it, chances are they'll say they're against it. So, can people use the law to justify their vote on an issue that is also emotional, like same-sex marriage?
These days conservative critics are constantly attacking Attorney General Mark Shurtleff's statement opposing Amendment Three. Shurtleff says he opposes gay marriage, but legally, he's concerned a section of Utah's Amendment Three violates constitutional equal protection and full faith and credit questions.
Today, at the conservative Sutherland Institute, a team of attorneys--including two BYU law professors--rejected, point by point, claims the Amendment is unconstitutional.
Richard Wilkins, BYU Law Professor: "If you simply open the books and read them, you can see on the face of them that the claim is, well in my words, absurd."
Professor Lynn Wardle says his legal opinion is not an extension of his own feelings on the subject. At the same time, he strongly feels there are scare tactics being used to divert attention away from the moral issues involved.
Lynn Wardle: "Some of those statements are incredible, no competent lawyer can say those kinds of things."
But opponents to Amendment Three insist an anti-gay agenda is precisely what's behind it. Shurtleff refuses to speak publicly about the issue further. But one of his opponents--Greg Skordas is.
Greg Skordas, (D) Candidate For Attorney General: "But it's really out of a fear that we're somehow going to start condoning homosexuality; and I think these people are scared to death of that."
Skordas, like Shurtleff, has constitutional concerns about repetitive, expensive legal challenges to Amendment Three.
Other attorneys, who also make it clear they don't support same sex marriage, are also joining the newly formed 'Utah Lawyers for Sound Constitutional Amendments'. One of them, Dan Berman, calls Amendment Three a mean spirited 'Legal Abomination'.
One of the major criticisms of Amendment Three is that it never went through the traditional review by the Constitutional Revision Commission, which normally sorts out the kinds of questions that are being publicly debated right now.