Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) is not joining the ranks of his fellow senators who have come out in recent days and endorsed marriage equality. But he is backing civil unions for same-sex couples, saying he believes it could be a way to preserve "traditional marriage" for heterosexual couples.
"I'll say this, I do believe this could be solved greatly by a civil union law that would give gay people the same rights as married people," said Hatch, mentioning hospital visitation rights and tax benefits. "I think we can solve this problem without undermining the very basis of marital law in our country."
Hatch told KVNU that legalizing marriage equality nationally could have unintended consequences and lead to "every Tom, Dick and Harry in there with some crazy marital scheme demanding the same rights and the same privileges."
Under current law, couples who are in civil unions do not have all the rights that married couples have, such as immigration rights, Social Security benefits, exemption from the federal inheritance tax and others. Many states also do not recognize a civil union from another state.
During the 2012 presidential campaign, Hatch also broke with GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, saying he doesn't support amending the U.S. Constitution to ban same-sex marriage and that he prefers the issue be left to the states.