SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Gov. Gary Herbert said Thursday he remains committed to defending Utah's same-sex marriage ban, calling decisions by other state leaders to not defend bans the "next step to anarchy."
Herbert made the comments Thursday during his monthly televised news conference on KUED. The Republican governor said he's dismayed by the suggestion that Utah should drop its defense of the 2004 voter-approved ban because public opinion and social mores are shifting.
He said seeing Oregon and Pennsylvania leaders this week decide not to appeal rulings from federal judges striking down bans there does nothing to change his thinking. He said those leaders should be "called on the carpet" for their decision.
"For elected officials, governors or attorney generals, to pick and choose what laws (they) will enforce I think is a tragedy, and is the next step to anarchy," Herbert said. "We have an obligation as a state to defend those laws."
Oregon and Pennsylvania became the 18th and 19th states to allow gay marriage.
A federal judge struck down Utah's ban in December, leading more than 1,000 same-sex couples to marry in the state before the U.S. Supreme Court issued an emergency stay pending an appeal. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver is weighing the appeal, with a ruling expected soon on the constitutionality of Utah's gay marriage ban.
The governor said Utah officials have not decided if they'll appeal a separate ruling this week by a federal judge ordering the state to recognize the gay and lesbian marriages that took place in Utah, and move forward with benefits for those couples.
Herbert said he's scheduled to meet with attorney general Sean Reyes and other state officials, with a decision expected in the next few weeks. The judge put a 21-day hold on the ruling, giving the state time to decide on an appeal.
The governor also commented on his views on homosexuality, after being asked if he thinks approving gay marriage is analogous to the legalization of interracial marriage 47 years ago.
"What you choose to do with your sexual orientation is different in my mind than what you're born with as far as your race," Herbert said.
He added later: "What your attraction may be is something else, but how you act upon those impulses is a choice."