Kraig Powell

In this Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2015 file photo, Rep. Kraig Powell, R-Heber City, gestures on the house floor at the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City. Gay rights advocates say Powell's proposal to require Utah judges to favor heterosexual couples over same-sex couples in adoptions or foster care placements is blatantly unconstitutional. Powell says last year's U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage doesn't stop Utah from preferring that a child have a mother and father instead of same-sex parents.

A Heber City lawmaker has been confirmed as a new Fourth District Court judge despite concerns from the LGBT community about past legislation.

State Rep. Kraig Powell, R-Heber City, was confirmed Wednesday on a unanimous 25-0 vote of the Utah Senate during a special legislative session to take the bench of retiring judge Claudia Laycock.

Members of the Alliance for a Better Utah raised concerns Monday before the Senate Judicial Confirmation Committee based on Powell’s consideration of previous legislation that would have given preference to heterosexual couples over LGBT couples when being considered for adoption or foster parents.

Powell apologized for his consideration of the controversial legislation, noting it did not pass.

However, Chase Thomas, policy and advocacy counsel for the Alliance for a Better Utah, said the fact that Powell was even considering the legislation shows a bias of discrimination.

“Merely expressing that he was considering this discriminatory legislation, regardless of whether or not he actually ended up putting it forward, shows a disregard for the United States Constitution,” Thomas said Monday.

In the legislation itself, Powell proposed using the word “pairage” instead of “marriage” to define a married LGBT couple. That distinction, Powell said, would delineate LGBT couples in their rights to children.

But the legislation, deemed prejudicial by favoring heterosexual couples, never gained much traction, failing in the 2016 legislative session.

Powell will fill Laycock’s seat at the end of the year after her retirement.

Kurt Hanson is the Breaking News and Courts reporter for the Daily Herald. He can be reached via email at khanson@heraldextra.com. Follow him on Twitter: @hansonherald.

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