Former Republican U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch, who spent more than 40 years representing the state of Utah, died Saturday at the age of 88.
The Orrin G. Hatch Foundation announced that he passed away at 5:30 p.m. MT surrounded by his family. No specific cause of death was given.
Hatch’s Senate career spanned from 1977 to 2019, longer than any other Republican in the nation’s history.
The senator was best known for his efforts to pass the Senate and enact the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. He was also known for his committed political philosophy as a fiscal moderate on Capitol Hill in the Republican Party.
The Salt Lake City Grandstand noted on Sunday reporting on his career:
“During his early years in the Senate, Hatch was seen as a right-wing brawler, fighting for a balanced budget amendment and laws undermining unions. He didn’t earn his reputation as a merchant until he befriended a liberal lion, the late Democratic Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy. Known as the “Odd Couple” in Washington, they teamed up to pass the Children’s Health Insurance Program, the first AIDS research bill, and the Americans with Disability Act.
During a speech on June 17, 1987, then-President Ronald Reagan noted wryly in reference to Hatch and the federal budget; “Let me say that if every member of the Senate was like Orrin Hatch, we would be arguing over how to handle a federal surplus. And that’s why I like to think of Orrin as ‘Mr. Balanced budget’.”
His stance on burning political/cultural issues was extremely conservative. Hatch was a strong opponent of abortion and was the author of the Hatch Amendment to the Constitution which failed to gain Senate approval, which stated that there was no constitutional right to abortion and allowed states to restrict abortion as they saw fit.
On immigration, the senator has adopted a tougher immigration policy, including increasing the number of Border Patrol agents on the southern border with Mexico. But he joined U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-lll.) to introduce the DREAM Act, which would pave the way to citizenship for children of undocumented immigrants, who were children when their parents came to the United States. United.
So far, the legislation has languished even after being reintroduced several times, but has not been approved by majorities in both houses of Congress.
On LGBTQ rights, Hatch initially took the position of the Republican Party and conservatives on equality issues. Early in his political rise in Republican politics as a newly elected U.S. Senator in 1977, he told students at the University of Utah; “I would no more like to see homosexuals teaching in schools than I would like to see members of the American Nazi Party teaching in schools.
Nine years later, in 1996, he supported the Defense of Marriage Act.
Hatch also voted against the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act in 2009, which expanded federal hate crime laws to include crimes committed against people because of their gender identity and orientation. sexual. During the Senate debate on the legislation, he questioned whether it was necessary, suggesting that anti-gay violence was not “a major problem”.
As the country moved toward broader acceptance of same-sex marriage, in 2012 the senator voted to confirm U.S. District Court Judge Robert Shelby to the Utah federal bench, whom President Barack Obama had appointed.
Shelby on December 20, 2013, struck down Amendment 3 to the Utah State Constitution, which defined marriage as a union only between one man and one woman, paving the way for same-sex marriage in the state .
Shelby ruled that Amendment 3 violated the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution, which guarantees due process and equal protection. As a result, Shelby’s decision sparked a series of other district court decisions that overturned bans in several other states.
His decision was upheld by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals on June 25, 2014. On October 6, 2014, the United States Supreme Court denied review of the 10th Circuit’s decision, legalizing same-sex marriage in Utah .
Shelby’s decision and the effect on the effort to legalize same-sex marriage was noted by Hatch on a 2014 Salt Lake City radio show saying that while he may not like it, the legal same-sex marriage is inevitable:
“Let’s face it. Anyone who doesn’t believe that same-sex marriage will become the law of the land just hasn’t watched what’s happening,” he said on KSL NewsRadio’s ‘Doug Wright Show’.
“The current trend in the courts is to allow same-sex marriage and anyone who doesn’t admit that just isn’t living in the real world.”
Prior to his statements to KSL, in April 2013, Hatch publicly stated that he viewed same-sex marriage as “undermining the very foundation of matrimonial law”, but refused to support a federal marriage amendment and endorsed same-sex couples’ rights. to form a civil union, saying the law should “give homosexuals the same rights as married people”
Between January 2012 and February 2014, plaintiffs from Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee filed cases in federal district courts that resulted in Obergefell v. Hodges.
After all of the district courts ruled for the plaintiffs, the decisions were appealed to the Sixth Circuit. In November 2014, following a series of appeals court rulings that year for the Fourth, Seventh, Ninth, and 10th Circuits that found state-level bans on same-sex marriage were unconstitutional, the Sixth circuit ruled that it was bound by Baker v. Nelson and concluded that these bans were constitutional. This created a split between the circuits and led to a Supreme Court review.
On June 26, 2015, Obergefell reversed Baker and demanded that all states issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and recognize same-sex marriages validly solemnized in other jurisdictions.
Also in 2013, he was one of 10 Republican senators to vote in favor of the Non-Discrimination in Employment Act, a law that would have prohibited discrimination in hiring and employment on the basis of orientation and gender identity for people who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. On November 7, 2013, the bill passed the Senate with bipartisan support by a vote of 64–32. Obama supported passing the bill, but the House Rules Committee voted against it.
It appeared to political observers and others that over time the senator was becoming more progressive in his views regarding LGBTQ people.
In July 2017, after then-President Trump announced that he had ordered a ban on military service for transgender Americans, the senator said, “I don’t think we should discriminate against anyone. , transgender people are people and deserve the best we can do for them.”
In June 2018, the year he retired from the Senate, Hatch gave a speech in the Senate expressing his support for the LGBTQ community and drawing attention to the high suicide rates among LGBTQ youth.
“No one should ever feel less because of their gender identity or sexual orientation,” Hatch said. “LGBT youth deserve our unwavering love and support. They deserve our validation and the assurance that not only is there a place for them in this society, but that it is much better off because of them. These young people need us, and we desperately need them.
Statement by President Joe Biden on the Passing of Former Senator Orrin Hatch
Jill, I and the entire Biden family are saddened to learn of the passing of Orrin Hatch, the longest-serving senator in Utah history and the longest-serving Republican senator in our country’s history.
Orrin Hatch once shared in an interview that he had a soft side and he had a tough side. To serve with Orrin, as I have for over three decades, was to see and appreciate both.
He was the fighter who carried with him the memory of his humble upbringing near Pittsburgh, who never pleased a tyrant, nor shied away from a challenge. The young man who, after graduating from Brigham Young University, was the first in his family to earn a college degree; the young lawyer who built a successful law firm; and the senator who sprinted from meeting to meeting because there was so much to do – indeed, when Senator Hatch retired he had sponsored or co-sponsored more legislation than any senator at the time .
I’ve seen this forceful, sharp Orrin in the many battles we’ve had over tax policy, the right of workers to unionize, and many more.
At the same time, Senator Hatch was also a man of deep faith; a gentle soul who wrote songs and poems and shared them with friends, colleagues and the world. It was the Orrin who cared for people who often had no voice in our laws and our country. I saw it in his efforts to pass the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
When I first launched the Cancer Moonshot as vice president, one of the first visits I made was to the Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City, at the request of Orrin. We both saw accelerating the pace of cancer research as a matter that transcended political divides.
When I threw my 10,000and vote in the Senate, Orrin came to the Senate and we had a chance to talk. I said that the greatest advantage of being a senator is having access to people who have a serious mind, a serious sense of purpose and who care about something. It was Orrin.
He was, quite simply, an American original.
Jill and I send our deepest condolences to Elaine and all of Hatch’s children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.