SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch conceded Wednesday it's only a matter of time before gay marriage is legal across the country, even though he doesn't think that's the right way to go.
Hatch said people who can't see what's happening aren't living in the real world. He made the remarks during an appearance on KSL-Radio's Doug Wright Show.
"Let's face it: anybody who does not believe that gay marriage is going to be the law of the land just hasn't been observing what's going on," said Hatch, a seven-term Republican senator who has been a proponent of keeping marriage exclusively between a man and a woman.
He said he doesn't agree with the string of pro-gay marriage rulings, but defended two Utah judges who issued such decisions. Hatch said Robert Shelby and Dale Kimball are both excellent federal judges. Hatch recommended both for the bench — Shelby in 2011 and Kimball in 1997.
"How do you blame the judge for deciding a case in accordance with what the Supreme Court has already articulated?" Hatch said.
His only criticism of Shelby was that he didn't immediately put his ruling on hold when he struck down Utah's same-sex marriage ban in December. More than 1,000 gay and lesbian couples wed until the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay more than two weeks later. The case is before the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.
Gay rights activists have won 14 lower court cases since a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling last summer. Gay and lesbian couples currently can marry in 19 states and the District of Columbia, with Oregon and Pennsylvania being the latest states to join the list.
Hatch also questioned whether judges should be able to tell states how to handle an important matter like marriage.
He said he believes nobody should suffer discrimination, and said religious people should try to understand other people's beliefs.
The former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee predicted the Supreme Court would take a gay marriage case in 2015.
"Sooner or later gay marriage is probably going to be approved by the Supreme Court of the United States, and certainly as the people in this country move toward it, especially young people," Hatch said. "I don't think that's the right way to go, on the other hand, I do accept whatever the courts have to say."