A bill that would make it clear that same-sex marriages in Utah are banned will be ruled legal by legislative attorneys, even though a computer clock on the Senate voting computer records the vote at three minutes after midnight last Wednesday.

Legally, a bill can't pass after midnight on the 45th day of the session. But who gets to decide when "midnight" strikes? It appears to be the call of the Senate president and House speaker.Lawmakers adjourned around midnight last Wednesday, but, as usual, passed bills right up until the final minutes.

Richard Strong, executive director of the Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel, said Friday he spent two hours listening to tapes of the final minutes of the House and Senate sessions.

"We don't go by the computer clocks (on the voting computers) in the House or Senate, but by the clocks located over the (House) speaker's chair and the (Senate) president's chair," said Strong. The Senate's computer clock isn't even visible to the Senate president, Strong added.

Both the clocks hanging over the chambers tell slightly different time; both are several minutes slower than the computer clocks on each bodies' voting machines, said Strong. "By the way, the computer clocks don't match each other, either," said Strong.

The ornate clocks over the chambers are older timepieces, sometimes difficult to read from the back of the chambers where the majority leaders stand directing last-minute hectic voting.

Strong said he could hear on the Senate audio tape, after HB366 had been voted on and recorded, Senate Majority Whip Leonard Blackham, R-Moroni, asking Senate President Lane Beattie, R-West Bountiful, if he (Beattie) didn't think there was enough time to deal with another bill.

After nearly a minute of silence, Beattie said he thought they'd come to the end of their work. There was another pause, and then Senate Majority Leader Craig Peterson, R-Orem, moved to officially end the session, said Strong.

"It's clear everyone, senators and the clerks on the circle (who record the voice votes of senators and then enter them into the electronic voting machine) believed the bill (HB366) passed OK. Unless there are some other problems with HB366, I can't see us (legislative attorneys) saying it didn't" pass, said Strong.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Norm Nielsen, R-Orem, says Utah will only recognize marriages that fit Utah law, no matter where the marriages are legally conducted.

Utah already bans marriages of a man to a man, a woman to a woman. Thirty-five other states do, too. But some states may soon make such same-sex marriages legal. And since Utah's law also says marriages legally conducted in other states are recognized in Utah, Nielsen said his bill is needed to make clear same-sex marriages won't be allowed here.

The bill is much disliked by gay Democratic and Republican groups, both of which issued press releases opposing the bill. Utah Gay and Lesbian Democrats spokes-man David Nelson said if the bill is approved, and ruled legal even after passing too late in his opinion, his group would inform the International Olympic Committee that Utah discriminates against gays.

Gov. Mike Leavitt says if the bill is ruled legal and sent to him, he'll sign it into law.