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Utah Gov. Herbert: Governors not defending same-sex marriage bans ‘is the next step to anarchy’

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert. (Rick Bowmer/AP)

The decision by some governors not to defend their state’s laws banning same-sex marriage are “the next step to anarchy,” Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) says in his monthly news conference, set to air on Sunday.

“I find it very disappointing,” he said when asked about the decisions by the top executives in Oregon and Pennsylvania not to defend their same-sex marriage bans. “And voices here in our community — media and others — ought to in fact call them on the carpet, in saying that you have a responsibility to defend the law that has been put on the books by the people. For alleged officials, governors or attorney generals, to pick and choose which laws we’ll enforce, I think, is a tragedy and is the next step to anarchy.”

Roughly a third of the 27-minute news conference—recorded by PBS member station KUED—was dedicated to the issue of same-sex marriage and issues related to gay and states rights.

Utah now holds a special place in the history of the fight for same-sex marriage. The state’s gay marriage ban was the first overturned in a federal court since last summer’s key Supreme Court decision granting federal recognition to wedded same-sex couples. The ruling, by the U.S. District Court Judge Richard Shelby, was the first of 13 federal rulings swiping at same-sex marriage restrictions. Ten of those decisions have ruled same-sex marriage bans unconstitutional.

Top officials in several states have chosen not to pursue what they’ve determined to be fruitless attempts at defending their state bans. On Wednesday, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R) said that while he personally believes marriage should be limited to opposite-sex couples, the likelihood of a successful appeal is so low he had decided to abandon the attempt. More than half-a-dozen attorneys general have in recent years made similar determinations.

In his address, Herbert said he believes states have the right to define what constitutes a marriage and governors have the responsibility to defend that right.

“What matters is the law on the books, we have a law created by the people of Utah and we need to defend that law to the very end,” he said. He later added “I would think that’s what everybody would want. I’m dismayed by voices out there that want us to stop in the middle of the process.”

Herbert also alluded to a nuanced view of homosexuality as a choice. Attraction, he said, may or may not be a choice, but expressions of that attraction are.

“I think it’s unclear, I expect there may be different gradations,” he said in responding to a question on whether he views homosexuality as a choice. “Clearly the actions involved in sexual activity ultimately end up being choices. What your attraction may be is something else but how you act upon those impulses is a choice.”

You can watch Herbert make the comments related to other governors at roughly the 22:15 mark, though he returned to the gay marriage issue about a minute earlier in the discussion about homosexuality being a choice. He spent several minutes on gay and states rights during an earlier back-and-forth starting at the 13:20 mark.

Niraj Chokshi reports for GovBeat, The Post's state and local policy blog.



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