Utah’s Attorney General says his decision to oppose the rights of gay couples to marry is ‘not about hate’.

An appeals court is currently hearing arguments from the state in a case challenging the ban on same-sex marriage.

Sean Reyes told supporters at an anti-gay marriage rally that he had taken up the case because he wanted to ‘defend the rights’ of Utahns.

According to Desert News, he said: “I can assure you, we are not motivated by hate, we are not targeting out of animus or any sinister motives particular individuals or families in Utah”

“I feel sorry whenever people are feeling hurt. And tough policy decisions, when they’re made, can hurt people and their families. But what I’m not sorry for, what I won’t apologize for, is standing up to defend the laws of the state of Utah

He urged for people to have “civil, respectful and positive discussion and even debate on this issue as it works its way up [the courts]“, and that opponents of same-sex marriage “to continue to take the high road, to continue to be respectful and empathetic.”

Same sex marriage was briefly legalised in the state in December, but a stay was put on the decision weeks later, putting the ban back in place until the appeals process concludes.