Utah’s Governor Backs Civil Unions, Common Ground

dnews huntsman jon jrGov. Jon Huntsman Jr. of Utah announced his support for Utah’s Common Ground Initiative, which would offer a variety of basic rights to LGBT Utahns– not only that, but he says he supports civil unions as well. The Common Ground Intiative has taken a battering in the State House and Senate and only two measures, a fair housing bill and a domestic partner bill, remain, but the Beehive guv said he supported both. Gay rights leaders replied, “We’ll take all the help we can get.

The Salt Lake Tribune

“He’s long supported many of the ideas that are presented within the Common Ground Initiative,” said Lisa Roskelley, the governor’s spokeswoman, noting her boss waits to endorse specific bills officially until presented to him in final form. “He supports civil unions.”

It’s doubtful Huntsman’s backing will lead to civil unions getting past the conservative Legislature. And it may not help the rest of this year’s gay-rights legislative push, which already has shrunk from four bills to two.

On Day Two of the 2009 Legislature, a measure died in committee that would have allowed financial dependents — besides spouses, parents and children — to sue in the event of a breadwinner’s wrongful death.

And last week, Rep. Jackie Biskupski, D-Salt Lake City, ditched her proposal, which would have sought the Legislature’s and voters’ approval to erase the second part of Amendment 3 — Utah’s constitutional gay-marriage ban — that forbids civil unions.

Huntsman, who endorsed Amendment 3 when he ran for governor in 2004, now favors repealing that portion, Roskelley said…”

Gay rights leaders appreciate the support, but point to actual things the Governor can do to improve the lives of Utah’s gays and lesbians:

“We appreciate that the governor sees these are common-sense solutions to problems that Utahns are facing,” said Will Carlson, Equality Utah’s public-policy manager. “We’ll take all the help we can get.”

Still, he acknowledged the governor’s support won’t necessarily sway any votes on Capitol Hill. “It sure didn’t help liquor laws or cigarette taxes much,” Carlson noted.

But he said the governor could make the difference on a nonlegislative piece of the Common Ground Initiative: extending state employees’ health benefits to domestic partners.”