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Utah Religious Freedom Bill To Rescind LGBT Anti-Discrimination Measures — And Protect Polygamy

Jim Burroway

February 7th, 2011

Utah State Rep. LaVar Christensen (R-Draper) is upset that so many local Utah cities have passed ordinances prohibiting discrimination against LGBT residents in housing and employment. The statutes already exempt religious organizations, but Christensen thinks that doesn’t go far enough. he wants to exempt Utah’s individuals from prosecutions because of their religious beliefs.

Christensen apparently is a big believer in religious freedom. A huge believer, and he wrote his bill so broadly that it opens the door toward protection of polygamy as well, among other possibilities:

Marina Lowe, the legislative and policy counsel for The American Civil Liberties Union, said the bill is so broad it could permit many types of discrimination. “The possibilities are limitless,” Lowe said. For example, a landlord could refuse to rent to a gay couple or a doctor could refuse to treat a woman who is pregnant out of wedlock.

…Civil rights attorney Brian Barnard said the law could provide a defense for the violation of a variety of laws in the name of faith. “Polygamy is the one that comes to mind, but there are other religious practices,” Barnard said. “Peyote, for example, and the other one is churches, like the Episcopal church, that give wine to minors during the sacrament.”

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Stefano A
February 7th, 2011 | LINK

The author of Utah’s anti-gay constitutional amendment also filed HB270 earlier this month that would ban gays (or any unmarried couple regardless of sexual orientation) from publicly funded programs.

Christensen also filed HB182, a one-sentence bill that says:

“An arrangement, agreement or transaction that is unlawful or violates public policy is void and unenforceable”

Which would in effect nullify any contract used to protect a family relationship such as medical directives and wills.

Stefano A
February 7th, 2011 | LINK

Forgot the link for HB182.

Stefano A
February 7th, 2011 | LINK

Sorry. That was the link for HB270 not HB182.

Kelly
February 7th, 2011 | LINK

And here I thought it was gay marriage that would lead to polygamy…

cowboy
February 7th, 2011 | LINK

Are we really surprised? Some people here at BTB have predicted such shenanigans happening when the Utah Legislature got back in session at the Capitol. This is the reaction from certain bigots who could not stand that 11 Utah Cities have anti-discrimination laws on their books.

Why they don’t word the ordinances to say bluntly: anything that is gay we are against. That’s really the intent of some our elected officials. Ignore the admonishment of being tolerant and respectful and screw the gays.

LaVar was the author of the anti-gay marriage law. He is also of the mindset that gays can change, control their urges and marry someone of the opposite sex.

And as a side story: Recently, a member of Equality Utah was invited to attend a discussion at the Law School on the BYU campus. After he left to drive home from the forum/discussion he discovered not just one but both of his two front tires had been slashed. Now, I am not saying that all BYU students are vandals and we should not generalize. But, the atmosphere at the campus is not gay friendly…especially if you have certain bumper-stickers on your vehicle.

Rob San Diego
February 7th, 2011 | LINK

@ Kelly- yes, gay marriage is a slippery slope that will lead to polygamy. We were all warned this years ago when it looked like Hawaii was going to be the first state to offer marriage equality. We were then reminded again with Massachusetts and California. I’m just waiting for the day that I can marry my laptop and truck.

BlackDog
February 8th, 2011 | LINK

Sounds like these laws are the sort of train wreck that probably wouldn’t survive a challenge in federal court, if they get passed at all.

Because if this gets passed and then there’s an honor killing and the Fundamentalist Muslim claims religious freedom…or when the Rasta smoking his Ganja claims religious freedom…or when the Scientologists are up to something shady and claim religious freedom when caught…and they try to say “But, but, but, this was only so CHRISTIANS could have absolute right to do what they want!” THEN who’s going to end up looking like an idiot for getting something passed that contradicts about a million other laws?

I thought most of these legislators were lawyers and shit, you’d think they’d think of things like that. If it passes, it’ll get the state sued in like a minute, and cost ‘em a ton of money, all for something they probably can’t legally enforce in the first place.

Tique
February 8th, 2011 | LINK

@Rob San Diego:
You an idiot. Only a fool would compare anything human to their truck. What an absolute idiotic thing to say.

BlackDog
February 8th, 2011 | LINK

@T.

That’s funny…because you should see some of the comparisons that anti-gay idiots make in regards to this issue. I’ve literally heard anti-gay morons make comments about “If gay marriage is OK then what’s to stop somebody from marrying a goat?” (Just quoting what the dude said, not attempting to unpack the logic of it, LOL)

Consider even the quote that led to the title of this website for example, Rob is just continuing with that line of reasoning, and probably anything but serious.

Masked Bandit
February 8th, 2011 | LINK

Thank you, Stephano, for posting the bill links. Just to clear things up:

HB 182: “An arrangement, agreement, or transaction that is unlawful or violates public policy is void and unenforceable.”

combines with:

HB 270: States that the public policy of Utah is that families only consist of one man, one woman, and their children. All social programs, services, and laws must promote this family policy.

Like an evil Captain Planet, these bills combine together to render contracts between same-sex couples illegal. They also ensure that single-parent families and same-sex couples will be legally stigmatized by state services and programs.

I like having actual legal text when exposing legislation like this. Defenders of certain politicians and political parties tend to respond to accusations of anti-gay activities by saying that the bills don’t do that, that I’m over-reacting, that “no one does that against gays anymore.” Starting from the bill text (or directly linking to the text) shuts down that line of defense from the beginning.

While the Mormon Church has made recent overtures in response to the PR debacle of funding Prop 8, the Republican Party here just tends to be outright mean. I’m pretty sure they despise the more liberal Salt Lake City. This is why they’ve shut down revenue-critical liquor stores in the valley; refused to fund schools from the rainy-day fund (preferring to use the fund for the inevitable lawsuits over their stupid “message to the Fed” bills); refused to raise taxes for schools even when such public polls showed overwhelming support for doing so; and repeatedly overridden local legislation passed in the liberal cities (SLC, Park City, and a few others) while whining about Federal law preempting their state laws.

I’m surprised that it isn’t Buttars proposing this legislation

@Tique: I think your sarcasm detector is broken. Isn’t this site named because a certain senator compared same-sex marriage to marriage between a man and box turtle?

Kristie
February 8th, 2011 | LINK

Well, since polygamists can only legally be married to one spouse (even in Utah) than any bill that keeps “unmarried couples regardless of sex” from participating in publicly funded programs would also keep polygamists out, if they are co-habitating with more than one “spouse” that they are not legally married too, right? Personally, I don’t care what consenting adults do as long as they are not hurting anyone else, so my feeling is that if you want to marry or live with someone of the same sex or marry or live with multiple partners, that is your business and the state should stay out of it!

Rob in San Diego
February 8th, 2011 | LINK

@Tique, I’m not sure I’m an idiot considering that you couldn’t use proper grammer (and spell check) in “your” (not you) sentence. You must be new to this site and having to deal with the religious right and republican right. Welcome to being gay and having to deal with the real idiots on the right.

My hat goes off to both Blackdog and Masked Bandit who see my posting as something being humorous ;) Since you must be new to this site and being gay (are you gay, I don’t know and I don’t want to accuse) we have heard it all when it comes to marriage equality and the slippery slope that it leads to.

For example, if I were to marry my partner and be a family with him and his son it will lead to a slippery slope of…

Straight people getting divorced.
Straight people marrying their relatives.
Straight people marrying their dogs.
Straight people marrying dead people and having sex with them.
Straight people having multiple partners.
Straight people marrying their kids.
Straight people marrying their horses.

etc, etc, and the list goes on….

So you see Tique, I don’t know what I did to offend you and warrant name calling, unless your some mole from the religious right sent here to sabotage us. Are you?

Amicus
February 9th, 2011 | LINK

(If I remember right, the Utah Human Rights Commission is among the weakest in terms of what they can do legally when they discover discrimination, of any kind.

It’s like the U.N. in Utah. The most they can do is write a strongly worded letter.)

Priya Lynn
February 9th, 2011 | LINK

Rob give Tique a break. Sarcasm often doesn’t convey very well in writing. As you said, Tique may be new to this site and less able to see that your comment was sarcastic. That’s not her/his fault and you shouldn’t blame him/her for thinking you were serious, it was an honest mistake.

The Lauderdale
February 9th, 2011 | LINK

For what it’s worth, I didn’t realize that Rob was being sarcastic either. When so many people make such stupid statements in full earnestness, it’s an easy mistake to make.

palerobber
February 9th, 2011 | LINK

thanks to Stephano and Masked for posting the info on LaVar Christensen’s other bills (so i didn’t have to).

the pro employment & housing discrimination bill was pretty predictable — it was the HB182/270 combo that really surprised me.

a common, if false, argument made by the anti marriage folks is that gay couples already have the equal opportunity through contracts to give their partnerships legal weight. these two bills would explicitly withdraw even that crumb of a benefit. how much more mean spirited can you get?

but as if that weren’t enough, HB270 by itself gives the green light to every last bigot working in government in utah at any level to discriminate against gays in their delivery of services or allocation of resources. wow.

if mormons believed in hell, LaVar would certainly have a special place in it.

palerobber
February 9th, 2011 | LINK

…er, i mean Stefano.

BlackDog
February 10th, 2011 | LINK

Aren’t they worried that a Christian bigot might use something like this to discriminate against a mormon, or a mormon bigot might discriminate against Christians?

Seems to me that something like this could be used by enterprising bigots or religious fanatics to cause all sorts of trouble.

Why do people always assume it’s only THEIR group that can or will use something like this as a weapon?

Broadly written laws guaranteeing absolute freedom of religion and overturning anti-discrimination laws at the same time just sound like a hell of a bad idea for everybody. Crap like this is why we have the bill of rights in the first place.

Mark F.
February 11th, 2011 | LINK

I support this measure if people will also have an absolute right to discriminate against Christians. Fair is fair.

(Note: this is not a joke.)

BlackDog
February 12th, 2011 | LINK

(Note: this is not a joke)

I suspect if more American Christians knew how it felt to be discriminated against, they wouldn’t try to discriminate against other people quite so often.

Note that I’m talking about legitimate discrimination or persecution, not claims of persecution because someone didn’t want to be preached at or they couldn’t force their religion on others.

The things that most American Christians claim to be persecution (in this country) do a disservice to the Christians in places like China or North Korea or Sudan, who actually ARE persecuted for their religion. I often get the vibe that the type of Fundamentalists who claim there’s persecution in the US would surrender in a heartbeat if faced with real persecution.

cowboy
February 17th, 2011 | LINK

UPDATE: The three anti-gay bills have been pulled. The sponsor (Mr. Lavar Christensen) has decided to have a dialog about these bills first.

(whew)

But, I wonder what dialog was happening in the back rooms that prompted his withdrawal of these bills. Was there a call from LDS Headquarters?

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