bad calls

The Deal Utah’s Lawmakers Struck to Skip Voting on Anti-Discrimination Is a Bitchslap to Gays

If New York’s marriage battle taught us anything, it’s that your civil rights are worth negotiating. Want to get married? Get in line behind the lawmaker using your right as a power play. And now in Utah, lawmakers have opted not to try to push through a statewide anti-discrimination law, with the understanding that opponents of gay rights won’t try to block local jurisdictions from passing anti-discrimination ordinates — just so they can keep their jobs. This makes no sense.

The news, from the Associated Press, doesn’t identify who these “opponents” (lawmakers? faith groups?) to anti-discrimination laws are, but in Utah, when dealing with the gays, the obvious finger pointing starts and ends with the Mormon Church. Except the Church is on the record in support of anti-discrimination efforts. As the AP notes, “In Utah, few law changes occur if the church disapproves. More than 80 percent of state lawmakers are Mormon, including Gov. Gary Herbert, a Republican.”

Which means either LDS is either lying about its public position on anti-discrimination, or legislators who don’t want anti-discrimination measures in place aren’t falling in line with LDS.

Moreover, public opinion polls show support across Utah is growing for anti-discrimination measures for gays; an swell of support grew after Salt Lake City, home to LDS, passed an ordinance. “Two-thirds of Utahns (67 percent) favor employment protections and safeguards for same-sex couples such as hospital visitation and inheritance rights, up from 56 percent in January 2009, when pollsters asked the same question,” reports the Salt Lake Tribune about its poll of 625 frequent voters. “Opposition dropped, overall, from 40 percent to 23 percent. Among LDS respondents, it plummeted from 48 percent to 28 percent.”

So why are the two sides of the debate joining forces in a veritable ceasefire? Because by delaying a vote — and instead passing a measure to “study” anti-discrimination for a year — it lets lawmakers off the hook on a “controversial” issue in an election year. And these legislators pose the second part of the arrangement (that opponents won’t interfere with local anti-discrimination measures) as a net positive. Which is akin to Republicans like Scott Brown saying they won’t support federal gay marriage, but hey, if you want to expend the time, effort, and cash for a piecemeal approach to localized (i.e. state-by-state) marriage rights, go right ahead. And they’re doing us the favor?

Meanwhile, there’s no word from the state’s gay groups like Equality Utah, which so far hasn’t made available a statement on the situation; its last “News Room” entry is from February 2009.

Don’t think this is such a big deal? Then let us break it down in the simplest of terms: Utah’s elected officials just placed the ability to keep their jobs above preventing gays and lesbians from being fired from their jobs or denied housing. And some of us vote for these people?

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  • Gorbeh

    Mormons are a hive mind, all those public opinion polls aren’t valid since Queen Bee Mormon had her minions vote that way to take pressure off the cult for prop 8.

  • Cam

    What the LDS church says to the public and what they say privately to their members are two completely different things. The LDS church reached out to the Catholic church promising to fight against gay rights in an organized fashion. They denied it even though anybody with Mormon friends was hearing that they were being ordered to canvass by their church. Finally when a copy of the origional memo came to light, they didn’t admit the lie, they just stopped denying it and got very quiet. Again, they are taught that as long as it advances the cause of the Mormon religeon lying is ok. They term it, “Lying for the Lord” and that is what they are doing here.

  • Victor

    Maybe we should have been lobbying these politicians. The only way to overcome Mormon bigotry is with enough lobbying.

  • dontblamemeivotedforhillary

    Boycott Park City!

  • spindoc

    The Mormon church is just like any other business. Look at the large Banks, they aren’t willing to tell the truth about their oporations, and the Mormons are just like them. They run their church like a business and send out their employees to lie for them. IF you go into a church they are still crowing about the fact that they were instrumental indeafeating the ERA, that was involving themselves in politics in another case, they need to have their tax exempt status looked over. The ruling council doesn’t have anybody on it younger that I believe 80. It’s no surprise that the church still thinks it’s 1960.

  • Silus Grok

    As a local who’s involved in the Utah political scene, I’d say this has little to do with the LDS Church leadership, and more with the fact that Utah politics are DOMINATED by ultra-conservative groups who’ve completely hijacked the process.

    The state allows for straight ticket voting, which means those too lazy to do the research just vote “democrat” or “republican”. And in our center-right state, that means Republicans who make it through their nominating process are almost GUARANTEED to win. And who controls the nominating process? The nutters.

    The second part of the equation is that rural populations (speaking generally, of course) tend to change slowly. Poll folks from rural Utah about gay issues, and you’ll notice that their opinions look a lot like the opinions _most_ Americans had before Will & Grace brought lovable gays into living rooms across the country. We all know the fastest way to change someone’s opinions about gays and lesbians is for that person to have a gay or lesbian friend. In rural Utah, that’s just not happening, and it shows in the politics.

    The third part of the equation is that savvy tacticians know that if they can just get state legislators out of local issues, then more progressive jurisdictions can enact reforms that benefit most of the gays and lesbians in the state.

  • Dave Richards

    Equality Utah has been sending out information about the current legislative session via their email list. I’ve including two below. (from Jan 29, and Feb 1, 2010) to get their voice into the discussion.

    ——————————- Feb 1, 2010 ———-
    Dear Equality Utah Supporter,

    On Friday night we sent out some critical information. Since then, we have been hearing your questions and concerns about the agreement and what it means moving forward. We hope to provide some answers.

    We agreed to this compromise because our strategy stretches far beyond Capitol Hill. We weighed the possibilities and had to act. There were 5 anti-LGBT bills ready to hit the Legislature, and those 5 bills would have erased our victories in Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County-they would have taken protections away from LGBT Utahns. They would have prevented Equality Utah from continuing our work in municipalities. To achieve a fair and just Utah in the future, we had to compromise this year.

    In compromising, here is what we gain:

    We have created an opportunity to provide concrete information to the Utah Legislature that discrimination against LGBT Utahns is real and it must stop! The Study that Rep. Johnson and Sen. Stephensen have recommended provides the opportunity for State officials to hear from the Utah Labor Commission, Equality Utah, representatives from Cities that already have these protections, and YOU.

    We are preserving the protections that Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County passed.

    We are able to build on our efforts at a municipal level, to provide the same protections that residents of Salt Lake City have now to more LGBT Utahns.

    In 2010, we are continuing the conversation with elected officials. We will continue to work with elected officials in your city, and we are committed to securing protections from LGBT Utahns and their families. We still need you to talk to your elected officials about why these policies are necessary, and how they affect you, your family, friends and colleagues.

    In the 2011 Legislative Session we will have higher ground to stand on. We will have the results of the study, more municipalities that have extended protections, and another election under our belts.

    With your help 2010 and 2011 can both be years of equality.

    Click here to watch a video from Rep. Christine Johnson

    Working for a fair & just Utah,

    Brandie Balken
    Executive Director

    ————————– Jan 29, 2010 ————-
    Equality Utah has been working with Representative Christine Johnson and Senator Howard Stephenson on a Fair Workplace and Housing Bill.

    Today at a press conference, Leadership of both the House and Senate along with Representative Johnson and Senator Stephenson agreed to engage in an anti-discrimination study related to Housing and Employment during the Interim Session.

    It was also announced that there will be NO PREEMPTIVE BILLS.

    Both of these announcements represent incredibly positive developments, especially in light of what was potentially underway during this Legislative Session.

    This means that we truly have the opportunity to find Common Ground in the state of Utah. Stakeholders and interested parties have agreed to continue the dialogue to gather pertinent information through the study sponsored by Rep. Johnson and Sen. Stephenson.

    Most importantly, just 5 days in to the 2010 Session, we managed to defeat 5 negative bills.

    • Two were outright preemptions that would have stopped ANY non-discrimination Ordinances from being enacted, including those that were already passed.

    • Two were focused on stripping housing protections from the Housing and Workplace bill.

    • One would have gutted the Human Rights Ordinances by allowing religious “Adherents” to discriminate.

    Equality Utah is committed to providing these critical protections in Housing and Employment, and will continue to work with all stakeholders until full equality is achieved.

    Working for a fair and just Utah,

    Brandie Balken
    Executive Director

  • Daniel

    And who said North America doesn’t have any theocratic governments… Utah, the place even Iran considers more theocratic, long ago surrendered any semblance of being a democracy. Fair, impartial and independent state Supreme Court… never. Constitution with basic equal protection under law… nope, got rid of that. Utah… where dreams of freedom, equality, human rights and democracy go to die.

  • Silus Grok

    Way to slather on the hyperbole, Daniel. Utah’s a great place to live, do business, and visit. Hell, Salt Lake City is consistently tagged as one of the best metropolitan areas in the country for gays to live. Sure, it has a cohesive cultural majority … but most places do. The majority here is religious in nature, but that’s surprising or rare.

    Maybe when folks stop crying wolf, real dialog can happen.

  • Daniel

    There were some “great” places for slaves to live before the Civil War, but that didn’t make them anything other than slaves. You cannot handle reality so you have to delude yourself and overlook the granddaddy of all monstrosities in the room: that face that Utah does not meet the minimum requirements of a democracy. That is undeniable, completely-verifiable reality.

  • Daniel

    that face=the fact

    also, what do you mean crying wolf? have gay people and their families (who vastly outnumber the population of Utah) voted to violate the human rights of Utah? Obviously not, or else Utah would not exist. It would be slagged out of existence in the blinking of an eye. The folks of Utah just want to violate the human rights of hundreds of millions of people and get away with it, but that is not ultimately up to them when all is said and done.

  • Silus Grok

    Yeah, sorry Daniel: your complaint sounds shrill and juvenile. Utah’s a fully functioning democracy (within the framework of a democratic republic). Not perfect — but certainly within a reasonable distance. And throwing in Prop 8 — “violating the human rights of hundreds of millions”? Really? Do you read the crap you write?

  • Daniel

    I didn’t say anything about Prop 8. I’m talking Utah. But apparently you connect Prop 8 with violating human rights or YOU would not have brought it up to make the association. Democracies die. That’s human history. That’s life. Utah’s died.

  • Daniel

    Also, are you one of those people who just doesn’t absorb how many gay people and their families there are on Earth? At the most extremely conservative estimate, when you add up gay people, their siblings, their parents, their kids, their other relatives, there are more than a billion (with a b). So more than a billion people are impacted when the human rights of gay people are violated. That is reality. And that is a billion damn good reasons not to violate the human rights of gay people.

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