Senate Committee Defeats First …

SALT LAKE CITY — January 27, 2009 — On Tuesday, January 27, Stan Rasmussen, public affairs manager for Sutherland Institute, and LaVar Christensen, a member of the Institute’s board of trustees and primary author of Utah’s Constitutional Amendment on marriage, testified before the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement, and Criminal Justice Committee.  Both Rasmussen and Christensen testified in opposition to Senate Bill 32, known as Wrongful Death Amendments.

The bill — drafted to allow same-sex couples, who are already named in a will, access to wrongful-death court action in the event of a tragedy — was defeated by the committee on a vote of 4-2.

“The Sutherland Institute opposes this bill and all other bills in the package known as the ‘Common Ground Initiative,’” Rasmussen said in his testimony.  “We simply do not share common ground in chipping away at the definition of marriage.  SB32 will begin this process in Utah — a process that has been implemented in California, Massachusetts, and Connecticut — to extend benefits to unmarried persons, ultimately, to allow our courts to do what our State Legislature is reluctant to do — redefine marriage.”

Rasmussen’s testimony outlined non-negotiable standards for sound public policy and emphasized that SB 32 did not meet those standards. He said any policy must be in complete conformity with Utah’s marriage amendment, must not threaten the integrity of the natural family, and must not threaten the freedom of religious groups and individuals to practice their beliefs without interference.

“So-called ‘wrongful death benefits’ can be handled through private contract, and because it can be handled through private contract, a marriage-like legal remedy is not needed,” he continued.  “There has been no attempt to determine the need for this law — no real attempt to determine how unmarried persons have been unjustly treated in legal contractual arrangements, except in theory.

Following the meeting, Rasmussen emphasized that “SB 32 is not only not needed, it invites legal mischief in areas of marriage and family that most Utahns oppose.”

Related News Update:

As part of its ongoing efforts to protect marriage in Utah, Sutherland Institute will introduce the Sacred Ground Initiative to the general public on Thursday, February 5.

“Sutherland continues to defend the sacred ground of traditional marriage, and family as the fundamental unit of society,” said Institute President, Paul T. Mero.  “This session will talk directly to Utahns about how the gay marriage controversy has come to our state and what responsible citizens can do to stand up for and be advocates to protect marriage and optimal family structures.”

Speakers will include Mero, Christensen, and Lauralyn B. Swim, Sutherland benefactor and former member of the Young Women General Board of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The program is free to the public.  Those interested to attend must reserve seats by calling (801) 355-1272, sending an email to, or by visiting