The Common Ground Initiative, a ground breaking series of gay-rights bills designed to confer basic liberties to Utah’s gays and lesbians reached the end of the line Wednesday as legislators killed off the final bill, which was aimed at hospital visitation rights, in committee. It’s depressing, if not surprising news from the U.S.’ most conservative state.
There are two ways to look at this. Many moderate gay leaders believe the only way gay rights bills get passed is if they are bundled in with other appropriations. Then there are others, including us, who believe that there’s a value in highlighting lawmaker’s homophobia by making them vote on singular bills like this. Unfortunately, when the bills never make it out of committee, only a small handful of politicians can be held accountable.
At the very least, the legacy of the Common Ground Initiative will be that it sparked a discussion in Utah about gay rights. Here’s hoping it’s a conversation that won’t stop anytime soon.
“Still, the Common Ground Initiative garnered support for gay rights never before seen in Utah, said Equality Utah Executive Director Mike Thompson.
The debate, at times, took ugly turns — including a full-page ad that ran Sunday in the Deseret News and the Salt Lake Tribune disparaging homosexuality. The advertisement prompted rebuttals from advocacy groups and conservative lawmakers alike.
The Human Rights Campaign called the ad “outrageous lies attempting to dehumanize an entire group of Americans.”
Legislators on both sides of the aisle also denounced the ad.
“I don’t want to leave this room without expressing my dismay at the ad that was in the Sunday papers,” said Rep. Sheryl Allen, R-Bountiful, after voting against Seelig’s bill. “I thought it was deplorable and full of half-truths. And I hope that we grow in our respect and esteem for each other in the future.”
Despite the knocks they took during the session, Common Ground supporters remained hopeful and resolute Wednesday.
“We’re just breaking ground on Common Ground,” said Thompson, adding Equality Utah plans to roll out its post-legislative agenda sometime next week.
The lawmakers who sponsored the bills said they will bring their bills back again next year.
“My timeline is not bound by a 45-minute committee hearing or 45 days of a session,” Seelig said.”