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Shurtleff Talked With Church Official Before Opposing Amendment

Shurtleff Talked With Church Official Before Opposing Amendment

Posted - Aug. 25, 2004 at 7:53 a.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff talked with a Mormon church official before announcing his opposition to the proposed state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, he said.

Shurtleff, a Republican who personally opposes same-sex marriage, said Tuesday that he had already made his decision to oppose Amendment 3 before speaking to the official. The Democratic and Libertarian challengers to his re-election also oppose the amendment.

The three candidates released a joint statement saying that wording of the amendment would deny a group of citizens the right to approach the Legislature to seek benefits and would be vulnerable to legal challenge.

Shurtleff said the church official, whom he refused to identify, was not speaking to him as a representative of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"I called to give him a heads up," he said. "There was some confusion about the church's position."

The church's First Presidency issued a statement in May backing constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

Shurtleff said the call was a courtesy to let the official know his opinion. Shurtleff said the official did not clarify the church's position to him, but "I felt comfortable in going forward after the conversation."

Church spokesman Dale Bills said Tuesday that "the church has not endorsed Amendment 3" and declined further comment.

Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, said Shurtleff's comments about an unofficial discussion are more vague than any statement the church has made.

"I believe the LDS Church fully supports marriage between a man and a woman," said Buttars, who co-chairs the pro-amendment campaign Constitutional Defense of Marriage Alliance. "I think this amendment will pass."

Scott McCoy, campaign manager of the Don't Amend Alliance, which opposes the amendment, says it is telling that the church has not endorsed Amendment 3.

"What it looks like is the church all along has said it's in favor of an amendment to preserve the traditional definition of marriage between a man and a woman," he said. "It has never gone on to say anything about part two," the part the three attorney general candidates question.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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