AG candidates address polygamy, Amendment 3
Jud Burkett/Daily News
Utah Attorney General candidates

Utah Attorney General candidate Greg Skordas, bottom, delivers his closing remarks as his fellow candidates, Mark Shurtleff and Andrew McCullough, top right, listen Wednesday on the campus of Dixie State College.

ST. GEORGE -- The Utah Attorney General debate Wednesday at Dixie State College's Dunford Auditorium began with a topic of concern for many southern Utahns: polygamy.

Democratic candidate Greg Skordas, 47, Murray, called polygamy an embarrassment and a crime against women and children that should be prosecuted as spousal and child abuse.

Current Attorney General, Republican Mark Shurtleff, 47, Sandy, talked of his efforts at fighting polygamy and related crimes since he became attorney general, including the establishment of a hotline for victims.

"This is not focusing on religion," Shurtleff said.

Libertarian candidate Andrew McCullough, 56, Lehi, differed from his opponents in his opinion that polygamy in a religious setting is constitutionally protected. McCullough said he would not prosecute polygamy as attorney general, but would enforce welfare and abuse cases.

Skordas said despite what McCullough thought, polygamy is still a felony in Utah.

On the subject of Amendment 3, regarding gay marriage, all the candidates shared similar views. They released a statement together two months ago opposing the amendment because of legal worries about its second section, which they said could hurt hospital visitation and funeral planning rights for unmarried couples.

Shurtleff called the family "the bedrock of society" and said he would support an amendment similar to the one proposed. But, he added, Amendment 3 goes too far and threatens fundamental rights.

Skordas said he built his career around enforcing the constitution. He said Amendment 3 does not belong in what he called "as close to a sacred document as we have in our society."

McCullough said he wonders why the legislature felt it was important to bring the amendment before voters.

"I wonder if they're trying to make a statement that certain types of people are more welcome here than others," McCullough said.

Shurtleff said, if passed, the amendment will face litigation. Skordas said defending the amendment against litigation is money that does not need to be spent and McCullough agreed.

Near the end, each candidate addressed why he would appeal to Southern Utah voters. McCullough said his pro-Bill of Rights views should appeal to Southern Utahns' individualist ideals.

Skordas said he would be the best candidate for Southern Utah because he practices law here and trains local law enforcement. He said he recently worked with local prosecutors on how to prosecute gang laws.

Shurtleff said he would protect Southern Utahns' land rights against the federal government. He also said he has taught children in local schools about drug safety.
Originally published Thursday, October 7, 2004