GOP Gov. Gary Herbert, a faithful member of the LDS Church, said Thursday that if asked he would “respectfully decline” to marry a gay couple.
Under Utah law the governor, like other top elected officials, such as a mayor, has the legal authority to marry people.
Herbert said unlike a county clerk or other public official whose job it is to marry folks, it is not his job to marry anyone, including a gay or lesbian couple.
Herbert seemed caught a bit off guard when asked the question by a reporter during his weekly press availability, which he holds during the Legislature’s 45-day general session.
“I’ve never really thought” about what he would do if a homosexual couple asked him to marry them.
He usually only marries friends who ask him to do the honors, and no gay couple has ever asked him, Herbert said.
As does his church, Herbert says marriage should only be between a man and a woman.
And when several gay Utah couples sued Utah over its state constitutional ban on gay marriage, Herbert strongly supported the state’s appeal of that law.
However, after a federal court judge a year ago ruled Utah’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional, Herbert instructed all state agencies to abide by that ruling and issue marriage licenses to gay people.
Herbert still believes it should be left up to the states to define marriage as they see fit, but he has called for all Utahns to obey the law and for all Utahns to treat each other with respect for themselves, for others and the law.
In answer to another question, Herbert said he wants SB54, what he termed the “grand compromise” with the Count My Vote citizen initiative petition supporters adopted in the 2014 Legislature, to stay in place and not be postponed until after the 2016 elections.
Herbert signed the bill and he said he believes he should stand by it.
It is appropriate that the law be challenged in the courts, and that process should play itself out, the governor added.
But he believes SB54 is constitutional – he wouldn’t have signed it otherwise – and it should stay unchanged by the 2015 Legislature.
He didn’t threaten a veto of any bill that postponed, or drastically changed, SB54 – which allows for a dual track candidate nomination process in 2016.
Candidates can gather a set number of voter signatures or go through the political parties’ traditional caucus/delegate/convention process to reach a primary election ballot.
But if Herbert were to standby his comments Thursday, then any bill that changes SB54 – including postponement of the new law past 2016 – would lead to a veto and it would take two-thirds votes of the House and Senate to override that veto.
It’s unclear if a postponement bill has even majority votes in the House and Senate this session, which ends in mid-March.
But for sure such a bill would not have two-thirds support, needed to override a gubernatorial veto.