House GOP meets with Utah AG, outside counsel to talk Amendment 3

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes and Gene Schaerr, the outside counsel hired by the state to represent it in the defense of Amendment 3, met behind closed doors with House Republicans to talk about the appeal.

Reyes and Schaerr said nothing to reporters as they walked into the closed House GOP caucus on Thursday. Schaerr was recently hired at a cost of $200,000 to represent the state in an appeal of a federal judge’s ruling that struck down Amendment 3 as unconstitutional.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver recently scheduled April 10 arguments in the case.

Last year, U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby ruled that Amendment 3, which declares marriage as between a man and a woman and doesn’t recognize anything else, violated the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution. Amendment 3 passed in 2004 with 66% of voter approval.

Three same-sex couples filed a lawsuit against the state, challenging the marriage ban. After Judge Shelby’s ruling, more than 1,300 same-sex couples married in Utah before the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay pending the appeal.

That spawned its own litigation, with four same-sex couples and the ACLU suing the state for refusing to recognize all of the marriages performed up to the stay for purposes of government services. On Tuesday, a judge in West Jordan’s 3rd District Court transferred that lawsuit to federal court at the request of the Utah Attorney General’s Office.

Speaking to reporters after the caucus, House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, said the group took no motions on the Amendment 3 litigation, but asked a lot of questions of the Utah Attorney General and his outside counsel.

“I think the attorney general has got a good team,” she said of Schaerr.

Lockhart said she is willing to “take a step back” on a series of legislation that is pending dealing with gay rights and religious freedom issues.

“The court has it. Let’s let the court deal with it,” she said.

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