Utah Republican Admits Nationwide Marriage Equality Is Inevitable

Sen. Orrin Hatch, a conservative Republican from Utah, says anyone who doesn't believe marriage equality will soon be the law of the land 'just isn't living in the real world.'

BY Sunnivie Brydum

May 29 2014 3:03 PM ET

Even conservative Republicans who once supported the so-called Defense of Marriage Act can see the writing on the wall when it comes to the inevitability of legal marriage equality nationwide. 

Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Republican who voted for DOMA and "don't ask, don't tell," says anyone who still thinks marriage equality is up for debate in all 50 states isn't living in reality. 

"Let’s face it, anybody who does not believe that gay marriage is going to be the law of the land just hasn’t been observing what’s going on," Hatch said Wednesday on KSL Radio’s Doug Wright Show, according to The Salt Lake Tribune. "There is a question whether [the courts] should be able to tell the states what they can or cannot do with something as important as marriage, but the trend right now in the courts is to permit gay marriage, and anybody who doesn’t admit that just isn’t living in the real world."

In that interview, Hatch lauded the federal judges who struck down Utah's constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in December and who last week declared that Utah must recognize the marriages of an estimated 1,300 same-sex couples who wed in the two weeks when marriage equality was the law in that state. The Tribune notes that Hatch supported the nominations of judges Robert Shelby and Dale Kimball, who issued the decisions on the antigay amendment and relationship recognition, respectively. 

"We have an excellent federal bench [in Utah]," Hatch said, according to the Tribune. "Other federal judges down there might not have arrived at the same conclusion that these two have. But I think it’s a portent of the future that sooner or later gay marriage is probably going to be approved by the Supreme Court of the United States, certainly as the people in this country move towards it, especially young people. I don’t think that’s the right way to go; on the other hand, I do accept whatever the courts say."

Although Hatch is a self-identified conservative Republican and a Mormon who voted in favor of the since-overturned DADT and DOMA, he has made incremental progress toward supporting basic rights for LGBT people in his recent years in Congress. He did, however, vote in favor of DOMA when it was passed in 1996, and cast numerous votes against federal legislation aimed at fighting hate crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity. 

Despite supporting DADT when it was introduced in 1993, the Utah Republican implied in early 2010 that he'd be open to repealing the outdated policy that required gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members to keep their orientation secret. However, when DADT repeal actually came up for a vote in the U.S. Senate, Hatch didn't cast his ballot one way or another, according to Project VoteSmart. Also, Hatch received a 0 rating from the Human Rights Campaign for his positions on LGBT-related legislation in the two most recent complete sessions of Congress (2009-2010 and 2011-2012). 

But just last year, Hatch was one of 10 Republican Senators who voted in favor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which passed the U.S. Senate for the first time in history last November. That legislation remains stalled in the Republican-controlled House, with Speaker John Boehner repeatedly refusing to bring the bill to the floor for a vote.

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