Senator Derek Kitchen: Utah has a “trigger ban” on marriage equality

Jun 10, 2022, 12:24 PM | Updated: Dec 30, 2022, 11:20 am
kitchen codify gay marriage utah...
June 7, 2022: Sen. Derek Kitchen holds a copy of the Utah Code regarding marriage recognition. Photo credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Trigger laws across the United States have come into focus in the wake of the unprecedented leak of a U.S. Supreme Court draft opinion in early May.

These laws, already in place in 13 states including Utah, would automatically take effect should the court rule to overturn the landmark abortion case, Roe v. Wade, as the leaked draft seems to indicate.

The question for Utah State Senator Derek Kitchen is whether there is another trigger law or trigger ban, that would impact marriage equality in Utah, should another landmark case be overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court. To answer the question, Kitchen points to the Utah state constitution.

In 2004, Utah passed an amendment to the state constitution, Article I, Section 29, which reads:

  1. Marriage consists only of the legal union between a man and a woman.
  2. No other domestic union, however denominated, may be recognized as a marriage or given the same or substantially equivalent legal effect.

To Kitchen, this is a “trigger ban,” and this week he began the paperwork to codify marriage equality under Utah law.

Marriage equality, individual privacy at risk, Kitchen says

“I’d like to believe that marriage equality is settled law, law of the land, with the Obergefell decision back in 2015 which deemed that same-sex couples do indeed have the constitutional protection to marriage under equal protection,” Senator Kitchen told KSL at Night.

In 2014, a year before the Obergefell decision, a study by the Pew Research Center found that 51% of the Utah adults that were surveyed favored or strongly favored same-sex marriage. In the same survey, 45% of Utahns that were questioned said they opposed or strongly opposed same-sex marriage.

In 2016, a poll conducted by Utah Policy and Dan Jones & Associates found that 52% of Utahns who were asked opposed legal same-sex marriage, 42% were in favor of legal same-sex marriage. Six percent of respondents reported they were undecided on the issue.

“But seeing what the Supreme Court is poised to do when it comes to reproductive health care … if you look at what Alito has said, in that he really goes after individual privacy and a number of other issues,” Kitchen said, “it begs the question – are we actually secure in the fundamental rights we’ve achieved through the courts over the last decade or so?’

Change, and the political climate

KSL NewsRadio asked Senator Kitchen if he thought changing the state constitution or passing legislation that would protect same-sex marriages is possible in the current political climate. He is hopeful.

“I’ve spoken to a couple of my colleagues in the Senate, all of them on the Republican side of the aisle. They say, ‘if this makes it to the Senate floor, it passes.’ My only concern is that President Adams and others in leadership might not let it out of committee.”

To date, there has been no comment by Utah’s legislative leadership about a legal change to marriage equality in Utah.

And to be clear, there is no pending challenge to the Obergefell decision before the Supreme Court.


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Senator Derek Kitchen: Utah has a “trigger ban” on marriage equality