Utah's Outside Counsel in Amendment 3 Case Will Also Work for Conservative Sutherland Institute

Jan 23, 2014

The attorney hired to represent the state of Utah in its appeal of the same-sex marriage decision will also be working for a conservative think tank.

Gene Schaerr was picked by Utah’s attorney general to handle the state’s appeal of a federal court ruling striking down Utah’s laws on same-sex marriage. He agreed to cap his fees at $200,000. But he’ll also be doing contract work for the Sutherland Institute, a conservative think tank based in Utah. At his monthly news conference on KUED, Governor Gary Herbert said he’s not worried about that.

“The question we should ask – have we hired a good attorney? I don’t care what the motivation is or if somebody is enticing him to come and live in Utah," Herbert says. "I care about the quality and the performance of the attorney. And Mr. Schaerr, I think, has got impeccable credentials as far as his skill as an attorney.”

Paul Mero, the head of the Sutherland Institute, agrees that Schaerr is well-prepared to handle the case, and he says they’ve contracted with Schaerr to write a couple of papers.

“He knew at some point that he was gonna head out here. And for whatever reason, he felt to reach out to us and see if we were interested,” Mero says.

The Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights activist group, is concerned about Shaerr’s motivations for working on the state’s case. They say Schaerr sent an e-mail to his colleagues at the law firm he’s leaving in Washington, DC telling them he’s taking the case as a “religious and family duty.” Schaerr is a member of the LDS church.