Here’s What’s Going On Inside Utah’s Battle For Equal Rights


WHEN GAY MARRIAGE IS A STRETCH — New Mexico just stripped any chance of enacting gay rights this round. And Utah, home of gay-hating state senator Chris Buttars, also joined the chorus of civil rights foes on Wednesday when legislators shot down the Common Ground Initiative, which would’ve bestowed many of the same rights of married heteros on our gay brothers and sisters (hospital visitation, iheratance, adoption) without ever using the word “marriage” or even “civil union.” But the war between those for and against is far from over. Both sides in Utah are already planning their next steps.

If all of this sounds familiar, well, it is. There’s a pretty standardized game plan that precedes and follows legislative votes on gay rights.

In Utah, gay rights opponents are high off this week’s legislative win, and pumped up to go all the way — and reinvigorate support for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. And to get there, these folks must convince everyone that enacting a few gay rights laws here and there will only pave the way to letting sodomites wed. The Spectrum reports:

LaVar Christensen, former legislator and primary author of Utah’s constitutional amendment in support of traditional marriage, gave a presentation at the Dixie Center on Thursday calling for support from the “silent majority” to combat what he termed a marketing campaign to implement equal-rights policies that would ultimately lead to a redefinition of marriage in the state.

“I’m afraid it won’t be the majority much longer if they stay silent,” he said.
The speech, presented by the politically conservative Sutherland Institute, promoted what organizers are calling the “Sacred Ground Initiative,” a response to the “Common Ground Initiative” supported by Equality Utah, an advocacy group for gay and transgender rights. […]

He said the measures pushed by the Common Ground Initiative are clear “predecessors to same-sex marriage.” […]

Christensen’s presentation centered on what he called “principles and precedents,” explaining how courts could use such smaller rights given to same-sex and transgender couples as precedents to move toward marriage. He compared the issue to California, where the same types of rights outlined in the Common Ground Initiative eventually led to the much publicized Proposition 8 battle in last year’s election.

And on the other end of things, Equality Utah (which helped organize the Common Ground Initiative) is limiting its goals to what it sees as achievable: Small gay rights wins, and not full gay marriage, though this effort is what just failed to pass.

Will Carlson, manager of public policy for Equality Utah, said the group is not focused on gay marriage, as the Sutherland Institution has claimed, but on “real life” issues of equality.

“They’re trying to muddy the waters and convolute the two,” he said.

Carlson said Equality Utah members realize the two sides aren’t likely to find common ground on the marriage issue, so they’re pushing for other more basic rights, such as equal rights to housing, and making it illegal to punish or terminate an employee based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The group cites a Janurary survey that reports 83 percent of Utahns support providing such rights to gay and transgender people as reason for the Legislature to show similar support. In the four bills raised in this year’s legislature, sexual orientation was specifically addressed only once.

“They’re ignoring the issues addressed by the bills themselves,” Carlson said of the Sutherland Institute. “Common Ground is an attempt to say ‘Okay, we disagree on marriage, let’s see where we can agree.’”

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  • Alan

    God I want to move out of this damn state. Its embarrassing to live in such a childish state. Hell, the entire country is acting childish lately. The government really needs to wake up and grow up and start acting for the people instead of against the people and tell the churches to all shut the fuck up and stay out of the governments business.

  • flightoftheseabird

    I wish my parents didn’t live there. Utah is a waste and I don’t see any reason to go.

  • Aaron

    This is just ridiculous. They say, you can’t have marriage, you can have ‘civil unions’ or ‘domestic partnerships’ and then when we try to obtain those, then they tell us, “no, this is just the first step on the path to ‘redefine’ marriage.”

  • Joseph

    At least run your column through a spell checker! Dayum!

  • Sebbe

    traditional marriage- I’m so sick of this phrase.

    Sacred Ground Initiative – ohhhhh their clever too!

  • MB

    Utah already has a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Plus, it goes the extra-special step: “No other domestic union, however denominated, may be recognized as a marriage or given the same or substantially equivalent legal effect.”

  • bek

    there’s no hope, in my opinion, of Utah ever allowing gays any rights. it’s sad to say, but they’re just that hard headed. i live in wyoming (a primarily LDS part of it – not too far from Utah) and they’re just as bad in my small community. well i shouldn’t say “my” i’m not from here, my husband is. but still. it’s disheartening and sickening, but the “traditional family” backers in these areas are not going to back down. the number of them is just too large.

  • Sebbe

    @bek – Hope you one day are able to get out of there. Must be hard since your husband is from there.

    BTW – I’m trying to put a moratorium on the word “traditional” anybody else got any better terms for breeder love, family, marriage?

  • boricuachick

    I live in NM and I was so disappointed when SB12, the Domestic Partnership bill, was defeated 25-17. Bigotry and hatred disguised as moral self righteousness. I had a feeling it was doomed when the local Catholic bishop sat in at the hearing. Sigh….


    @Sebbe: The phrase “gay marriage” seems to have caught on well enough; why not simply call the other “straight marriage”?

  • Chino

    So, is everybody in Utah head to Buttars-Palooza?

    Party at the Utah State Capitol for truth and justice
    Music * Dancing * Street Artists * Food * Fun
    Featuring a special “tribute” to everyone’s favorite homophobic, racist state Senator

    Date: Saturday, February 28, 2009
    Time: 1:00pm – 3:00pm
    Location: Utah Capitol – South Lawn

  • Sebbe

    @HYHYBT – I know just seems like we could come up with something snappier. Oh and BTW – here in Massachusetts (and Connecticut) we just call it all marriage. Nice huh!


    @Sebbe: That *is* nice… no chance of that anytime soon here in 77%-against-Georgia, but then again, it *might* snow an inch or so tomorrow, and if it does it will be the first time in 14 months. Not at all equivalent, but everywhere has its nice points :)

  • bek

    @Sebbe: it’s very hard to live in a place where people like me (i support gay marriage, i’m an atheist, etc.) are public enemy #1. but oh well. he loathes the staunchly mormon, bigoted culture here as much as i do. we’re looking at moving to Vermont … that place is mellow enough for me …

  • Sebbe

    Vermont is very nice especially Burlington. My family has a place at Killington so I spend a lot of weekends there in the winter. You couldn’t find somewhere more different culturally. The scenery and the people are wonderful in Vermont. Plus the have the only US Senator to call himself a Socialist!!! LOL

    VT is VERY mellow in a good way. You will be surprised (pleasantly) by both young and old.

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