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The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Opinions divided over Amendment 3

By Amanda Friz and Dave Salmon

One of the more controversial topics that students will vote on this year is Amendment 3. Contrary to popular belief, it is not an amendment that asks for a vote in favor of or against gay marriage. Voting “no” is not a vote for gay marriage.

Amendment 3 has two clauses. The first defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman. The second states that any domestic union other than marriage will no longer be legally recognized. In essence, “the first sentence explains what legal marriage is and the second describes what it is not,” states Yes! For Marriage, a Web site created in support of the amendment.


Opponents say the amendment is unnecessary because “same-sex marriage is already prohibited in Utah, as is the recognition of same-sex marriages entered into in other states,” according to the Web site for the Don’t Amend Alliance. The group’s members include Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson, the First Unitarian Church of Salt Lake City, Wasatch Affirmation Mormons, Tapestry Against Polygamy and all three candidates for Utah attorney general.

Proponents of the amendment argue that the amendment is necessary because current bans on same-sex marriage exist in Utah statutes, but not in the Utah Constitution. Amendment 3 would prevent “any potential conflict between the Utah Constitution and the statutory provision,” according to the 2004 Utah Voter Information Pamphlet.

Piano performance senior Elisa Jacobson said she is voting for the amendment.

“I know people who are in that situation [of a gay relationship] and I don’t want their lives drastically affected, but I want it [the amendment to pass] for myself and for those I care about,” she said.

The amendment would not only bring the heterosexual definition of marriage to the constitution, but would also prevent the law from being trumped by the courts, said William Duncan, a fellow at the public-policy group the Sutherland Institute. He said there have been cases in other states where the state court forced the legislature to create a status similar to marriage for same-sex couples.

However, “this seems highly improbable given the current composition of the [Utah Supreme] Court,” said the Don’t Amend Alliance Web site.

Effect on

Marital Rights

On the other hand, an adverse effect on many straight and gay couples is probable, according to the Don’t Amend site. The second part of Amendment 3 reads, “No other domestic union, however denominated, may be recognized as a marriage or given the same or substantially equivalent legal effect.”

Opponents say that “domestic union” is a term that describes much more than just same-sex couples. It includes anyone who comes together for a common purpose pertaining to home, finance or family, regardless of sexual orientation.

For example, under Amendment 3, a niece living with and caring for her elderly aunt would not be allowed to make emergency health-care or funeral decisions for the aunt, nor would she be able to collect the aunt’s unwilled inheritance. Currently, these rights are automatically bestowed to married couples. Amendment 3 would once and for all reserve these rights for only married couples, opponents say.

Jessica Liddell, a freshman in psychology, disagrees with Amendment 3 for that reason.

“The amendment takes away from minority groups that have different types of marriage. If marriage were a purely social thing, it wouldn’t matter, but marriage has rights attached, and those rights are being denied to people,” she said.

Supporters concede that the Amendment would prohibit the automatic granting of these rights, but argue that couples could still obtain these rights by creating contracts. The State of Utah simply would not grant these rights under the name “marriage” or “domestic union.”

“Amendment 3 doesn’t specify if and how contracts are affected,” said Michael Mitchell, executive director of Equality Utah, at a discussion group earlier this month.

State Employee


The Don’t Amend site also argues that certain rights state employees receive would also be affected.

Currently, the spouse of a state employee receives health-care benefits, family leave for caring of the sick, leav for new births and funerals, worker’s compensation and accidental death benefits. Opponents hold that the amendment would deny the unmarried partner of a state employee these rights.

For example, a man and a woman are living together, but are unmarried. The woman is pregnant and is a state employee. She wants to take family leave when her child is born, but wants to return to her job six months after the birth. If the couple were married, her job would be secured for her and she could return without a problem. Opponents of Amendment 3 claim that the second clause of the amendment would call the couple a domestic union, and therefore would not recognize their claim to marriage rights such as family leave.

Supporters say these claims are preposterous.

While the Legislature could not create a substitute for marriage, it could still extend individual benefits to unmarried couples, according to the Yes! For Marriage site. The site goes on to say that health insurance and wills also will not be impacted.

In the case of health insurance, private individuals and organizations may give benefits to whomever they choose. Supporters of Amendment 3 say that this fact will stay the same, regardless of whether the amendment passes or fails, according to the Yes site.

The same holds true for wills, proponents claim. Marriage does not affect to whom a person can will property or money. In other words, a person does not have to be the deceased’s legal spouse in order to collect inheritance. This fact is true now and, supporters argue, will stay the same if the amendment passes.

Common Law Marriage

Opponents say there are other reasons to vote no on Amendment 3, according to the Don’t Amend site. Common law marriage may be impacted, if not eliminated, by the passage of Amendment 3.

In Utah, common law marriage is granted to a man and a woman who “live together; assume marital rights, duties and obligations; and have acquired a uniform and general reputation as husband and wife,” says the Yes site. The Don’t Amend site says that common law marriage is typically invoked after one partner has died, so that the other may collect insurance benefits, for example.

The Don’t Amend site says that, under Amendment 3, common law marriage might be called unconstitutional because it “blesses what is for all practical purposes a ‘domestic union’ by giving it marital benefits.”

The Yes site counters that the amendment’s wording means that it does not apply to common law marriage. Common law would be in danger if the amendment used the term “licensed union” instead of “legal union.”

“Since common law marriages are legal in Utah and involve a man and a woman, they are not affected by Amendment 3,” states the site.

Bypassing the Revision Commission

Amendment 3 is also under fire because it is the only amendment on the ballot that was not reviewed by the Constitutional Revision Commission.

The commission reviews all amendments to make sure they are not changing the state Constitution “in a haphazard way,” states the Don’t Amend site. The Yes site argues that review by the CRC is not mandatory.

“The commission was not established until 1977, so the vast majority of the Utah Constitution was not reviewed by the commission,” the site reads.

The Don’t Amend site asserts “many of the problems associated with Amendment 3 would likely have been caught by the CRC.”

Federal Constitution Conflict

One of these problems is that Amendment 3 could potentially “conflict with the United States Constitution,” says the voter pamphlet.

According to the Yes site, Amendment 3 is not unconstitutional and one precedent “suggests that a federal challenge to Utah’s marriage amendment would be unsuccessful.” The site cites a recent decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. The court ruled that a Florida law that prohibits homosexuals from adopting children does not violate the federal constitution. Because this Florida law is more restrictive than Amendment 3, Utah’s amendment would be ruled constitutional as well.

For more information, go to the Don’t Amend site at and go to the Yes site at Students can also consult a voter information pamphlet, which can be found at newsstands throughout campus and also at

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