There are only eight Democrats in Utah’s 29-member Senate, but they’re making a lot of noise. They’re not happy with the GOP leadership’s halfhearted response to Utah State Sen. Chris Buttars’ (R-West Jordan) comparing gays to radical Muslims, saying they had no morals, and calling them “probably the greatest threat to America going down I know of.”
After Senate Democrats threatened to bring the issue up on the Senate floor, Senate President Michael Waddoups removed Buttars as chairman of two Senate committees. But Waddoups made it very clear that he was acting only out of embarrassment, and not out of any disagreement with anything Buttars said.
This left Senate Democrats dissatisfied and demanding more:
“President Waddoups put faith in Sen. Buttars and appointed him to very important and key positions. Unfortunately, Sen. Buttars betrayed that trust,” said Senate Minority Leader Pat Jones, D-Salt Lake City, who also sought Buttars’ removal from the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.
“Removing Senator Buttars from these key positions …would be sending a clear message to Utahns, Americans and humankind that we do not tolerate bad behavior in the Utah Senate,” she said.
Waddoups responded by threatening to remove any Democrats from the Rules committee who couldn’t work with Buttars — an obvious reference to Sen. Scott McCoy (D-Salt Lake City), the only openly gay Senator who also happens to sit on the Rules Committee with Buttars.
The Senate ground to a halt for two hours Monday when the GOP caucus met privately to talk about the Buttars situation. According to the local Fox TV affiliate, that meeting was prompted partly by Saturday’s revelation by Sen. Howard Stephenson (R-Draper) that Waddoups only acted because Buttars broke a pledge he made in December not to talk about gay-rights issues, and not as punishment for the opinions that Buttars expressed.
For his part, Buttars expressed bitterness over being relieved of his chairmanships and vowed not to resign.
Meanwhile, Utah gay rights supporters plan a rally — no, not a rally, and not a protest either — a party, for Saturday. “Buttars-Palooza” will take place on the Capitals south lawn from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.