When all else fails, sneeze. And sneeze. And sneeze again. That’s exactly what one Utah lawmaker did to filibuster an antigay bill in the State Senate this week.
Sen. Jim Dabakis, an openly gay member of the Utah State Senate, saved the day at literally the eleventh hour and fifty-seventh minute Monday evening when he blocked a bill that would have essentially relegated same-sex married couples in his state back to second-class citizenship.
Despite U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby striking down Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage in 2013, followed by the Supreme Court’s ruling on nationwide marriage equality last June, some lawmakers in the Beehive State are still hellbent on discriminating against the gays, or, as they like to call it, protecting “religious liberties.”
Antigay, anti-choice, anti-immigrant Republican Rep. LaVar Christensen tried to sneak a very subtle amendment into an otherwise mundane measure during a recent legislative session. The amendment sought to change the definition of term “joint tenants,” which is used on state tax forms, from any “legally married couple” to just “husband and wife.” The ultimate goal was to eliminate gay couples from being legitimate joint tenants under Utah law.
The bill passed the Senate. The House Judiciary Committee made a few revisions then sent it back to the Senate floor very late Monday night. A roll-call vote began at 11:57 p.m. and seemed to be sailing towards passage. That’s when Sen. Dabakis stepped in to the rescue.
When it came time to voice his vote, Sen. Dabakis cleared his throat. Then he sneezed, and sneezed again. He fumbled his words, rambled a bit, sneezed some more, and coughed again.
When Senate leaders caught on to his stall tactic, they tried skipping over him to continue voting and pass the bill before the midnight deadline. But it was too late. The clock struck midnight, the session ended, and the bill died.
Dabakis was met with condescending scowls and stares from his Republican colleagues. Afterwards, he got in his car and drove home to be with his lawfully wedded husband, Stephen, who he legally married in Salt Lake City in December 2013.