SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's Republican governor won't weigh in on a new Mormon church policy targeting gay members and their children but said he's puzzled by a judge who ordered a baby be taken from her lesbian foster parents this week.
The new church policy bars children living with gay parents from being baptized until they're 18 and calls for them to disavow same-sex relationships before baptism.
Herbert, who is a Mormon, said at a news conference Thursday that it's not his role as governor to tell any faith what their practices should be.
Here are other highlights from the governor's monthly news conference taped at KUED-TV:
LESBIAN COULPLE JUDGE
The governor said he's puzzled by a judge's order this week to remove a baby from a lesbian couple and place her with a heterosexual couple for the child's well-being. Herbert said the judge in the city of Price should follow the law and not inject his personal beliefs into the matter. "Laws, sometimes, people don't like, but the judge should not inject his own personal beliefs and feelings in superseding the law," Herbert said. The couple says the judge cited research that children do better when they are raised by heterosexual couples. Utah child welfare officials are reviewing the matter. The judge is precluded by judicial rules from discussing pending cases.
Utah's Republican Party is preparing to go back to court and ask a judge to clarify a new state election law overhauling how political parties pick candidates. The GOP believes a recent court case allows the party to exclude any candidates who choose to compete in a primary election instead of a caucus and convention system, which involves participation at neighborhood meetings and a statewide gathering. Election officials say Utah law allows candidates to pursue both paths, something Herbert has said he'll do for his 2016 re-election bid. The governor said Thursday he thinks a judge should clarify the law but he's comfortable competing for the nomination through the caucus system.
EDUCATION AND BUDGET
Herbert said education will be the biggest focus of his budget recommendation to be released next month. Last year, Herbert called for lawmakers to end some sales tax earmarks that automatically sweep money toward transportation and instead free that money up for education. The Legislature kept those in place, but a state commission last week echoed Herbert's call to end the earmarks. The governor said Thursday that he thinks some earmarks will be scuttled soon. He said Utah needs to keep putting money into education to recruit and keep good teachers, but he is not advocating for a tax increase to boost education money.
The governor said he supports a proposal coming from U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop of Utah to protect about 4 million acres of Utah land in exchange for freeing up about 365,000 acres for oil and gas development. The public lands proposal would also create a new "Jurassic National Monument" in central Utah. Herbert said he's not too happy about the establishment of national monuments in general but that may be what it takes to get a compromise between local officials, environmental groups, the energy industry and more. The governor, like western Republicans, remains critical of President Bill Clinton's 1996 designation of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in southern Utah, which opponents say was overly broad and did not include input from locals.
After Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush said this week that he'd go back in time and kill baby Adolf Hitler if it were possible, Utah's governor was asked Thursday what he'd do. "Get the (time) machine ready and then we'll decide what to do," Herbert said. Bush made his comments during an interview with Huffington Post, describing an email he received while governor asking if he'd go back in time and kill baby Hitler if he could.