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Orem • The legal battle over Utah's same-sex marriage ban concerns a state's rights issue with religious, moral and traditional underpinnings, state legislators and activists said at a rally in support of Utah's Amendment 3 Wednesday.

"This is a sacred issue," said Rep. LaVar Christensen, R-Draper, who wrote the law defining marriage between a man and a woman. "It is absolutely constitutional for people to have a moral and religious basis for public policy, along with other social and historical justifications."

Speaking to a crowd of about 75 people at a Golden Corral restaurant, Christensen, like other speakers, said he didn't want to be offensive.

"We want to do this in the most kind and loving way possible, but truth is truth," Christensen said.

U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby declared the ban unconstitutional Dec. 20, prompting some 1,300 couples to get state marriage licenses — until Monday, when the U.S. Supreme Court granted the state's request for a stay.

"Many people are in shock this even happened in Utah," said conservative activist Cherilyn Eagar, who organized the event. Radio talk show host Sam Bushman framed the issue as one of state's rights, saying the federal government doesn't have the authority to regulate marriage.

"The states have way more broad-based authority than the federal government ever did," Bushman said. "It's an activist judge that flat-out needs to be reined in."

Defending the ban isn't a lost cause, he said.

"Do you want to know why we're going to win?" he asked the responsive crowd. "Because it's right … We need to turn to our god in prayer and then we need to go to work."

Eagar, meanwhile, said her opposition to same-sex marriage isn't generally about consenting adults, but rather about giving children "the optimal environment to be reared."

"That is, as all credible social science will tell you, with a mom and a dad," she said.

Children are also a major concern for Mary Summerhays, whose group, Celebration of Marriage, focuses on "defending a child's right to have a relationship with a mother and father."

"If we do not respond, we will be endorsing this," she said.

Eagar spoke about the effect of legalized same-sex marriage in Massachusetts, which she said has affected schools, businesses, state health education and politics.

"Even the Republican party has caved in Massachusetts and is not opposed to same-sex marriage," Eagar said. "Some are marching in these gay parades themselves."

Eagle Forum President Gayle Ruzicka, meanwhile, said she "prayed and fasted," for the marriage stay. When she heard the U.S. Supreme Court had granted it, "I was an emotional basket case."

Ruzicka also spoke against a proposed anti-discrimination bill scheduled to be introduced during the upcoming legislative session. A similar bill passed out of a Senate committee last year, something Ruzicka called "a terrible thing."

"We must not let this bill pass because it will be in the schools," she said, referring specifically to transgender children being allowed to use the bathroom of the sex they identify with, rather than the gender they were born as.

In the audience was Lindon resident Vince Newmeyer, who said he heard about the rally through the conservative Eagle Forum group.

"These attacks are coming from all sides. I guess I'm not surprised, I'm disappointed because we've lost our moral foundation," said Newmeyer. "When it comes down to laws, I think they need to have a foundation in God's law."

Spanish Fork resident Melody Barber said she was "a little disappointed" when she heard about Shelby's ruling.

"I felt like Utah should stand up for itself," she said. After a few meetings with like-minded people, she started feeling like Utah has a solid state's rights argument in the case.

"The majority of people in our country still hold moral values. I believe that," she said. "If [supporters of same-sex marriage] have the right to stand up, so do we."

Twitter: @lwhitehurst