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Amendment 3 sponsors strategize their efforts

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Legislative sponsors of Amendment 3 rallied support on Capitol Hill Wednesday for the anti-gay marriage measure, warning there's still work to be done before election day.

"I have a concern that gays and lesbians have an almost unlimited checkbook, and there'll be a massive voice of fear and confusion put out there," Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, said he told his fellow GOP senators during a closed caucus.

Buttars, the Senate sponsor of the proposed state constitutional amendment, said he asked the group "to hang tough and follow what they know is right, traditional marriage as they've always known it."

The amendment's House sponsor, Rep. LaVar Christensen, R-Draper, emotionally defended the proposed amendment before fellow Republican lawmakers, at one point choking back tears as he thanked lawmakers for their "strong character" in voting to preserve the traditional definition of marriage.

Their comments came just a day after The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a statement saying the church "favors measures that define marriage as the union of a man and a woman and that do not confer legal status on any other sexual relationship."

That statement expanded on a previous pronouncement in which the church supported a constitutional amendment to preserve traditional marriage but did not refer to other relationships.

The proposed Utah amendment would prevent other relationships from being "recognized as a marriage or given the same or substantially equivalent legal effect," a provision that has been called "bad law" by Republican Attorney General Mark Shurtleff and others.

No one was saying the amendment wasn't going to pass Wednesday, but there was concern expressed that its supporters might become complacent, especially with what some saw as an endorsement from the LDS Church.

"There is a potential for people to let down and think it's over," Senate Majority Whip John Valentine, R-Orem, said. He said the GOP senators talked about the need for a "coordinated effort in the last two weeks before the election."

How to spend what's left of $250,000 for the pro-amendment campaign also came up during the closed-door session, Senate Majority Leader Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, said. "We don't want to tip our hands," he said of the strategizing.

Scott McCoy, of the Don't Amend Alliance campaign against the amendment, said he's still curious as to where amendment supporters' money is coming from. As of the Sept. 15 campaign filing deadline supporters had raised a combined $16,480.

"The other side has always been terrified we've got some massive amount of liberal money coming in from out of state. They are paranoid," McCoy said.

McCoy, who earlier this month said his campaign had raised nearly $619,000, 87 percent of which was from in-state sources, said his campaign is intensifying its efforts.

Waddoups saw the statement from the LDS Church as endorsing Amendment 3. "That's about as close to endorsing it as you can get without saying, 'Go out and vote for Amendment 3' in my mind," he said.

E-MAIL: dbulkeley@desnews.com; lisa@desnews.com