SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah Gov. Gary Herbert indicated Thursday that he would be open to considering a law allowing civil unions if state residents pushed for such an option.
No such proposal is pending, but the Republican governor was asked about the idea during his monthly televised news conference.
"If there's other ways to get from here to there that can be the common-ground approach, let's take a look at it," Herbert said.
However, Herbert said his job now is to defend the state's 2004 amendment to the state constitution that bans same-sex marriage and civil unions.
The governor said he was surprised and disappointed when a federal judge overturned the ban in December. More than 1,000 gay couples rushed to wed until the U.S. Supreme Court halted the marriages earlier this month.
Utah has appealed the federal judge's ruling to the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which is expected to issue a decision in a few months.
Herbert directed state agencies to freeze recognition of the same-sex marriages after the Supreme Court issued its emergency stay to halt the weddings.
The governor said Thursday he personally supports Utah's constitutional amendment banning gay weddings and said marriages should involve a man and a woman.
"I think that's the best way to have family arrangements," he said. "The best chance for children to be the best they could be."
Herbert said he understands the joy and confusion felt by gay couples since the Dec. 20 ruling.
"Clearly the people involved in gay relationships are together, they're loving each other, they're taking care of each other, just like people in other families and traditional families are doing," Herbert said. "And it has been working."
The gay community deserves respect, he said, but he repeatedly affirmed his commitment to the ban.
"There's speculation that attitudes have changed," Herbert said of polls indicating a shift in public opinion since 2004. "But we can't base our government based on polling. It's got to be based on the rule of law."
If Utah residents want to change the law, there's a method for that, Herbert said.
Herbert also said he was open to a proposed Utah law prohibiting discrimination based on sexual identity or orientation.
However, he stopped short of endorsing the statewide proposal, saying he would need to see the specific language.