Utah Gov. Huntsman Endorses Civil Unions, Equal Rights for Gay and Lesbian Couples

by HRC Staff

HRC President Joe Solmonese Praises Declaration as Further Evidence that "Equality is Not a Partisan Issue."

WASHINGTON - The Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights group, today praised reports that Gov. Jon Huntsman (R-Utah) supports civil unions, which would provide equal rights for gay and lesbian couples under state law. A spokeswoman announced the governor's position, saying that he also supports many of the ideas presented in Equality Utah's Common Ground Initiative, a slate of pro-equality legislation for LGBT people in Utah.

"This is hopeful and inspiring news, and emphasizes the reality that, as we saw in Wyoming last week, equality is not a partisan issue," said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. "We're thrilled that Gov. Huntsman recognizes that it's simply the right thing to do to support equality. We hope that his support will help Equality Utah and fair-minded legislators advance the Common Ground Initiative, which is simply aimed at advancing equal rights for all Utahns by providing important anti-discrimination protections and other rights currently denied to LGBT people in the state."

Last Friday, February 6, Wyoming's House of Representatives voted 35-25 against a proposed amendment to the state constitution seeking to define marriage between a man and a woman as the only legal union recognized in the state. A number of Republican legislators spoke against, and voted against, the measure.

In the wake of the vote last November on Proposition 8, a measure purporting to amend California's constitution to eliminate marriage by gay and lesbian couples, Equality Utah and pro-equality legislators in Utah proposed the Common Ground Initiative, a set of measures aimed at advancing equal rights for LGBT people in Utah. The Common Ground Initiative was designed as a response to statements by leaders of the LDS Church that it does not oppose civil unions or other measures aimed at moving LGBT people toward equality under the law. The LDS Church had urged Mormons to do all they could to support passage of Prop 8, and donated staff time and other resources to efforts to pass the amendment.

The Common Ground Initiative includes measures designed to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in employment and housing, provide benefits for State of Utah employees and their adult designees, provide inheritance rights and other protections to adults who enter into a declaration of joint support, and repeal part of an amendment to the state constitution that prohibits civil unions.

Three states currently permit gay and lesbian couples to enter into civil unions and receive all the rights, benefits, and responsibilities provided to married couples under state law. For additional information about relationship recognition in other states, please see the map at www.hrc.org/documents/Relationship-Recognition-Laws-Map.pdf

The Human Rights Campaign is America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

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