SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Nine Republican lawyers in the Legislature and three Brigham Young University law school professors say the proposed state constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage would not deprive unmarried couples of basic rights.
Their joint statement counters the arguments raised by all three candidates for Utah attorney general, who said the proposal's "overly broad language" would prohibit the Legislature from extending "even the most basic partnership rights to unmarried couples."
The amendment, which goes before voters Nov. 2, says: "Marriage consists only of the legal union between a man and a woman. No other domestic union, however denominated, may be recognized as a marriage or given the same or substantially equivalent effect."
Sen. Dave Thomas said he wrote the legislative-BYU group's to put the amendment debate back on point.
"We've gotten away from what the real issue is: the issue of family and marriage and what it means," he said.
Republican Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, Democratic challenger Greg Skordas and Libertarian ca contend the second part of the proposal would block lawmakers from extending hospital visitation, funeral planning or even protective orders to unmarried Utah couples.
The Utah State Bar's Family Law Section Executive Committee this month voted to oppose the change to Utah's Constitution.
Thomas and the co-signers said these concerns are "dubious legal arguments."
"I feel strongly that the positions put out by the attorney general candidates skewed the issue," he said Monday. "I don't think any of them did an in-depth legal analysis."
Shurtleff declined to comment further on Amendment 3.
Thomas figures the attorney general will do his duty. "We've got a difference of opinion," he said. "The attorney general simply enforces the law. I have confidence that he'll do that."
The amendment supporters contend Amendment 3 does not block unmarried gay or heterosexual couples from signing legal contracts outlining medical decision-making power and inheritance rights.
Visitation is an individual hospital's policy, and protective orders for cohabiting adults will not be affected by the amendment, they said.
Other legislators signing the letter were Sens. John Valentine, Greg Bell, Lyle Hillyard and David Gladwell, and Reps. LaVar Christensen, Greg Curtis, Mike Thompson and Stephen Urquhart,
The BYU professors were Richard Wilkins, Lynn Wadle and Scott Loveless. Wilkins helped draft the proposed amendment.
(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)