SALT LAKE CITY — Sen. Orrin Hatch said Wednesday that same-sex marriage seems inevitable as courts across the country rule against states that ban the practice.
At the same time, the seven-term Republican senator said religious rights in America are being eroded.
"Lets face it. Anybody that does not believe that gay marriage is going to be the law of the land just hasn't been observing what's going on," he said on KSL NewsRadio's "Doug Wright Show."
"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."
Although Hatch said he disagrees with U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby's ruling that overturned Utah's voter-approved definition of marriage as between a man and a woman, Hatch called Shelby an excellent judge. He said Shelby erred in not staying his decision, knowing the issue would eventually go to the U.S. Supreme Court.
"I disagree with him on that case. But that doesn’t mean that I was right and he was wrong. We need to be very, very careful before we overturn religious belief," he said.
Hatch said courts have gone "very far left" with regard to religious rights.
"We're in danger of losing our religious freedom and our rights. People are moving away from going to church on Sundays. People are starting to find fault with religions and their beliefs," he said.
Even if same-sex marriage were to become legal, it will never be fully accepted by many people or churches, the senator said.
Hatch also defended U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball who ruled last week that Utah must recognize same-sex marriage performed in the state during the 17 days it was legal. Kimball put a 21-day hold on his decision.
Other federal judges in Utah might not have arrived at the same conclusions as Kimball and Shelby, Hatch said.
"But I think it's a portend of the future that sooner or later, gay marriage is probably going to be approved by the Supreme Court of the United States," he said. "I don't think that's the right way to go. But on the other hand I do accept whatever the courts say."
Hatch lamented the high court throwing out the federal Defense of Marriage Act last summer.
There is a question of whether the court should be able to tell the states what they can or cannot do with marriage, he said. The 50 state "laboratories" can find their own solutions rather than having one "tribunal" ignoring the will of the states, which he said could lead to "anarchy."
"Is the federal government constitutionally going to take away all the rights of the states?" Hatch said.