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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A state legislator is writing a measure that would create a legal definition of marriage in Utah as involving only "one man and one woman."
"I will pass it," said Sen. D. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan. It will appear during the 2004 session that begins in January.
Groups that take a liberal view on same-sex marriages are marshaling to oppose the proposed legislation. The drive for recognition of same-sex marriages in a number of states, coupled with a Supreme Court decision that decriminalized homosexuality, has become impetus for growing national debate.
Buttars said he wants to uphold the traditional definition of marriage.
The Utah branch of the National Organization for Women issued a statement opposing Buttar's proposal.
"This discriminatory legislation only serves to foster bigotry and hate against a responsible population of society who deserve the same privileges and rights afforded to other couples in committed relationships," the group said.
Utah NOW president Andrea Moore-Emmett made a distinction between same-sex unions and polygamy, which "violates human and civil rights of women and children" while homosexual unions reflect "sexual orientation" in which there are no victims, her statement said. Polygamy already is constitutionally banned in Utah.
Buttars maintains same-gender and polygamist unions violate the spirit of true marriage.
Darin Hobbs, director of finance and operations of the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Utah, also issued a statement calling Buttars' proposal "at best, a misguided attempt to preserve the so-called sanctity of marriage."
The bill, if passed, would deprive committed same-sex couples of "the same privileges and rights enjoyed by heterosexual partners," he said.
Definitions of marriage "reside in the realms of personal and spiritual beliefs," he maintains.
"The fact is, same-sex couples already exist and are in committed relationships. We not only ask for the same privileges and rights, but we will accept the responsibilities, personal and social, as well," Hobbs said.
Buttars can anticipate a lively debate if his bill comes before the Legislature this winter.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)