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Utah lawmakers slowly shifting position on gay rights

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) - Times are changing, according to a new poll gay marriage is more acceptable than ever before. And that's the case, even in Utah.
SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) - Times are changing, according to a new poll gay marriage is more acceptable than ever before. And that's the case, even in Utah.

A group called Restore Our Humanity wants to repeal Utah’s gay marriage ban. Whether or not state lawmakers get on board is one thing. But the more this topic comes up, it’s clear; Utahns are changing their opinions on gay rights.

"We're just thrilled with the sentiment in the Utah state legislature," said Utah Democratic Chairman Jim Dabakis.

State Senator Jim Dabakis said he's seeing a major shift in the way Utahns look at the gay and lesbians. Although Utah laws may not show it, Dabakis told ABC 4 state lawmakers are giving more support to gay rights.

"The people of Utah have changed their opinions on non discrimination," said Dabakis.

Utah's Republican Chairman Thomas Wright said he's seeing the same thing.

"You had Senator Urquhart, a very conservative Republican senator from St. George, sponsor a bill for non-discrimination for the LGBT community. So clearly there is a bit of a shift inside the Republican Party to be more tolerant," said Thomas Wright, Utah Republican Chairman.

It's unclear if Utah lawmakers will repeal the state ban on gay marriage defining it marriage "as only the union of a man and a woman." But if they do, they'd be following a national trend.

A new ABC News/Washington Post poll shows 58% of Americans now support gay marriage, only 36% percent oppose it. Compare that to 10 years ago, American opinion was exactly the opposite, 37% supported gay marriage, 55% opposed it.

Prominent politicians are now following suit. In 2008, Hillary Clinton opposed gay marriage but Monday in a new video Clinton announced she's now in favor of it.

"I would support marriage for lesbian and gay couples," said Hillary Clinton in the video.

Last week powerful Ohio conservative Rob Portman changed his mind.

"I think this is something we should allow people to do, to get married and to have the joy and the stability of marriage that I've enjoyed for over 26 years," said Senator Rob Portman, (R) Ohio.

Last month former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman announced he now supports gay marriage.

And if you ask one Utah conservative, it may be something state lawmakers should consider.

"We can be a little more tolerant of that issue, that doesn't mean we have to change the law, but at least we can understand that what they're struggling with," said Wright.

Utah is obviously a deep rooted conservative state. It would be a much longer road to accept gay marriage in Utah compared to Massachusetts, Vermont or even California. But with the U.S. Supreme Court weighing in on the debate, it may not be a decision, Utah has to make.

Follow Brian Carlson on Twitter: @tv_briancarlson
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