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Posts for March, 2009

A Tale of Two Parties

Jim Burroway

March 2nd, 2009

There must have been two different parties on Saturday in Salt Lake City, both of them sharing the name “Buttars-Palooza.” How else would one explain the two very different estimates of crowd size. First, the Salt Lake Tribune:

More than a thousand people converged on the Utah Capitol on Saturday, not for legislative protest, but to party.

Couples, families and individuals danced on the south lawn to live music at “Buttars-Palooza,” a festival meant to exploit the audacity of Utah Sen. Chris Buttars’ now-famous comments about gays.

The LDS church-owned Deseret News had a different estimate:

The crowd of 300 or so cheered and waved rainbow flags.

“We are all here as part of something larger, something that is a little bit more threatening to Chris Buttars than the gay-rights movement,” said Araveni Olivares, a local activist. “We are part of a lasting movement for civil rights and social justice.”

The Deseret News’ coverage has taken a considerable turn lately, so much so that News reporters recently refused to allow their names to appear in their stories’ bylines in protest over editorial policy changes. Two well-respected editors, Chuck Gates and Julianne Basinger, were demoted after having criticized the paper for tailoring the paper’s content to be more pleasing to LDS readers.

Utah Dems, Activists Demand More Action On Buttars

Jim Burroway

February 25th, 2009

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.

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More Proof: Buttars Sanctioned for Being An Embarrasment, Not for Being A Bigot

Jim Burroway

February 22nd, 2009

Timothy and I both noticed that as Utah State Senate President Michael Waddoups explained his reasons for sanctioning State Sen. Chris Buttars, it wasn’t because the GOP caucus disagreed with what Buttars said, but that they were embarrassed with how he said it.

Well if there was any doubt, there’s more proof in this latest article from the Salt Lake Tribune posted late yesterday evening:

Senate leaders did not discipline Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, for anti-gay comments he made in a recent interview, but because he violated a deal with leadership that he not talk about gay issues, a senator said Saturday.

“Most of what Senator Buttars said, I agree with,” Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, said in a weekly Red Meat Radio program he hosts on K-TALK. “We as a Senate caucus had an agreement that because Sen. Buttars had become such a lightning rod on this issue, he would not be the spokesman on this issue and basically he violated that agreement.” …”It happened, not because he said a lot of things wrong, but because he decided to be the spokesman again,” Stephenson said.

Buttars, a former LDS bishop, came under fire when, in an interview with reporter Reed Cowan, he compared gays to radical Muslims, said they had no morals, and called them “probably the greatest threat to America going down I know of.” When Utah State Senate Democrats threatened to bring the issue up on the Senate floor, Waddoups called a news conference on Friday where he announced that Buttars would be relieved of his chairmanship of two committees.

But notice that during that press conference, Waddoups refused to condemn what Buttars said. In fact, he said that “We agree with many of the things he said. … We stand four square behind his right [to say what he wants].” He also said that removing Buttars from the two committee chairmanships “frees Senator Buttars to feel more at ease in saying how he personally feels without feeling as if he’s personally speaking on behalf of his committee and the Legislature.”

So why was Buttars sanctioned if they didn’t disagree with what he said? According to Sen. Stephenson:

Senate Republicans, including Buttars, reached an agreement at a day-long caucus Dec. 13 that, because he was such a polarizing figure, Buttars should not comment on gay issues. That included a prohibition on speaking to the Common Ground bills that sought some equal rights for gays.

But Buttars didn’t stay on the sidelines for long. Just a month later, he sat down with documentary filmmaker Reed Cowan for the hour-long interview for a project on California’s Proposition 8 against gay marriage, in which Buttars made the inflammatory statements.

Stephenson did disagree with Buttars on one thing. He was miffed that Buttars hogged the credit for killing every piece of gay-rights legislation to hit the Senate in the past eight years. Stephenson wants us to know that others should get some of the credit:

“For him to claim the glory for that, truly he’s delusional on this issue,” Stephenson said.

[Hat tip: Stefano]

“Buttarsaurus”: Salt Lake Tribune Condemns Sen. Buttars

Jim Burroway

February 21st, 2009

The editors of the Salt Lake Tribune has done something that the Utah GOP Senate leadership couldn’t muster the courage to do: condemn Utah State Sen. Chris Buttars for his remarks equating gays with radical Muslims, saying that gays have no morals, and describing them as being “probably the greatest threat to America.” As Timothy and I have both noted, the GOP appears embarrassed not by what the former LDS bishop said, but by how he said it.

The Tribune expressed dismay but not surprise over State Senate President Michael Waddoup’s weak and  half-hearted response in “disciplining” Buttars:

Or we could urge the Senate to discipline its wayward son. But Senate President Michael Waddoups has already defended Buttars, ridiculously portraying him as the victim of an unscrupulous filmmaker. Besides, Buttars has said equally hateful things in the past without censure.

The Tribune rightly calls Buttars “an embarrassment to the state of Utah, and, increasingly, a dinosaur,” and notes the irony that whenever Buttars opens his mouth, his opponents are strengthened, not weakened. “ He is, in our opinion, the best spokesperson that Utah’s LGBT community has ever had,” wrote the editors.

The other major Utah newspaper, the LDS-owned Deseret News, has no opinion on the matter.

Was Buttars Punished Or Rewarded?

Jim Burroway

February 20th, 2009

I thought Timothy Kincaid really nailed it when he concluded:

The Mormons and the Republicans were sure upset that the tape of [Utah State Sen. Chris] Buttars was released. But it wasn’t because they find the attitude behind his anti-gay rants to be offensive. They just didn’t like how Buttars’ raw hatred reflected on them.

He based that conclusion in part on this statement by Senate President Michael Waddoups as reported by the Salt Lake Tribune:

“He is a senator who represents the point of view of many of his constituents and many of ours. We agree with many of the things he said. . . . We stand four square behind his right [to say what he wants].”

But there’s something else that jumped out at me later in that same article. It’s this:

“It [Buttars’ removal from the committees] frees Senator Buttars to feel more at ease in saying how he personally feels without feeling as if he’s personally speaking on behalf of his committee and the Legislature,” Waddoups said.

So let’s put all this together, shall we?

  • The Utah GOP “agree(s) with many of the things he said,” and,
  • Now that Waddoups did Buttars the favor of removing him from the committees, it “frees Senator Buttars to feel more at ease in saying how he personally feels.”

So, when the Senate decided to remove Buttars, a former LDS bishop, from two committees, was it a sanction for saying the wrong thing? Or was it a reward that gives Buttars free reign so that he can now tell us what he really thinks? Because I have to tell you, the way Waddoups frames his actions it really sounds more like the latter.

Buttars Loses Committee Appointments – But For the Wrong Reasons

Timothy Kincaid

February 20th, 2009

Blatant displays of hatred are often met with swift denunciation. Those who do hold animus against the target are disgusted by attitudes, and those who share the dislike are embarrassed by the exposure of the ugly attitudes underlying their behavior.

This was on display in Utah today where Sen. Chris Buttars was punished for the homophobic rants that the media has been exposing over the past few days. (SL Trib)

..the decision was made to remove Buttars from the Senate Judiciary Committee, which he now chairs. By virtue of his position on that panel, Buttars also served on and led the Senate Judicial Confirmation Committee, and will lose his spot on that panel as well.

Waddoups said the Judiciary Committee is the panel that has typically heard bills relating to gay and lesbian issues, and, by taking him off the position, he hopes to remove some of the personalities from the debate.

However, the Mormon Republican leadership wanted to be clear that while they were embarrassed by Buttars’ word selection, they don’t disagree with his anti-gay positions.

“I want the citizens of Utah to know that the Utah Senate stands behind Senator Buttars right to speak, we stand behind him as one of our colleagues and his right to serve this state,” said Senate President Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville. “He is a senator who represents the point of view of many of his constituents and many of ours. We agree with many of the things he said. . . . We stand four square behind his right [to say what he wants].”

And the Mormon Church also objected to the language but not the homophobia:

“From the outset, the Church’s position has always been to engage in civil and respectful dialogue on this issue. Senator Buttars does not speak for the Church.”

The Mormons and the Republicans were sure upset that the tape of Buttars was released. But it wasn’t because they find the attitude behind his anti-gay rants to be offensive. They just didn’t like how Buttars’ raw hatred reflected on them.

There was no indication that the leadership of the Mormon Church or the Republican delegation have anything but complete agreement that gays are mean buggers, without morals, looking for superiority, similar to Islamic terrorists, and the greatest threat to America. Which makes me wonder, just what could Buttars have possibly said in his most irrational and ranting moment that would have caused them to say, “I disagree”?

There is no question that though Sen. Chris Buttars doesn’t know me, he hates me. Today Senate President Michael Waddoups let me know that he does as well.

Buttars May Lose Judiciary Committee

Jim Burroway

February 20th, 2009

Sources have told the Salt Lake Tribune that Utah State Sen. Chris Buttars’ anti-gay remarks may cost him his his position on the Judiciary Committee:

Senate Republicans, prompted by complaints from minority Democrats, held a frank discussion of Buttars’ actions in a closed-door caucus Thursday. Afterward, senators would not discuss what action, if any, might be taken against the West Jordan Republican.

…Sources familiar with the Senate discussions, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the Senate Republican caucus decided to remove Buttars from the Senate Judiciary Committee, a panel which he currently chairs.

Buttars also chairs the Judicial Confirmation Committee. It’s unclear if that position will be affected as well. Waddoups called a news conference for 9:30 a.m. MST this morning.

Senate Minority Leader Pat Jones (D-Holladay) said members of the Democratic caucus were offended by Buttars’ remarks. She warned Waddoups that if Republican leaders didn’t take any steps to address the problem, Democrats would force the issue on the Senate floor.

Buttars, a former LDS bishop, has come under fire for saying that gays have “no morals” and “probably the greatest threat to America going down I know of.” He also said:

“It is, in my mind, the beginning of the end. … Oh, it’s worse than that. Sure. Sodom and Gomorrah was localized. This is world wide. You can’t tell me that something that was going on in Sodom and Gomorrah is not going on wholesale right now, and to a large degree among the gay community.”

Utah Senate May Sanction Buttars

Jim Burroway

February 19th, 2009

Utah State Senate President Michael Waddoups (R-Taylorsville) has announced a press conference for 9:30 a.m. tomorrow morning in response to the controversy surrounding anti-gay remarks by Sen. Chris Buttars (R-West Jordan).

In an interview last January for a documentary on Prop 8, Buttars told reporter Reed Cowan that gays are without morals and are “probably the greatest threat to America going down I know of.” Buttars compared gays to radical Muslims, and he claimed credit for killing every pro-gay piece of legislation in the past eight years. In a longer audio clip, Buttars, a former LDS bishop, described the situation as he saw it this way:

Oh, it’s worse than that. Sure. Sodom and Gomorrah was localized. This is world wide. You can’t tell me that something that was going on in Sodom and Gomorrah is not going on wholesale right now, and to a large degree among the gay community. Absolutely. The underbelly is just what I said, is they can’t beat us unless the Supreme Court rules and overthrows everything. They can’t touch us in Utah.

It’s unknown right now what the GOP leadership will announce tomorrow. They may strip Buttars of his committee chairmanships, or they may extract some sort of apology. Resignation, at the moment, appears unlikely. But whatever the move, it seems to be an attempt to head off threats by minority Senate Democrats to bring the embarrassing episode to the Senate floor.

Fallout may extend beyond sanctioning Buttars, including possibly reconsidering some of the Common Ground bills which were so callously spiked earlier this week. Some Republicans appear to have been embarrassed by the black eye that action, coupled with Buttars’ remarks, has given the state:

A Republican senator told the Deseret News that GOP leadership is already asking that work get under way on a new version of the Common Ground bills intended to secure rights for gay and other nontraditional couples. The package of bills carried by Democrats has failed this session, but the senator said leadership is interested in seeing if “a common point of reference” can be found on issues including the ability to file a wrongful death suit and secure health insurance benefits.

The controversy surrounding Buttars’ statements — such as comparing gay rights activists to Muslim terrorists — can only help that process, the senator said.

Sen. Buttars and the Voice of Bigotry

Jim Burroway

February 19th, 2009

ABC4 television has posted an edited audio clip of Utah State Sen. Chris Buttars’ award winning remarks, in which he cites homosexuality as “probably the greatest threat to America going down I know of.”

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Click here to read an audio transcript of Buttars’ remarks

Utah Sen. Buttars’ Remarks on ABC4

Jim Burroway

February 18th, 2009

Salt Lake City’s ABC4 has posted the video of their report on Utah State Sen. Cris Buttars’ award-winning remarks. Here it is:

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Buttars responded on the state Senate’s unofficial blog:

Sometime in January, I talked with Reed Cowan for over an hour. I felt it was a friendly interview and we covered a lot of ground.

Reed assured me that he would treat both sides of the issue fairly and that I would be treated fairly. He told me the interview would be public in about a year and I would be allowed to see his work and approve my part before he released it.

I took Reed at his word and am disappointed.

Reed Cowan, the documentary reporter who interviewed Buttars, responded to ABC4:

“Senator Buttars claim that he was somehow misled is a lie. He knew the topic of our film and he knew there would be opposing voices. Additionally, Senator Buttars claim that he had promise to review our material is a fabrication. His response today is a shameless diversion tactic to the larger issue. The tape speaks for itself.”

Update: We have the entire transcript of Buttars’ award-winning remarks here.

LaBarbera Award: Utah State Sen. Chris Buttars

Jim Burroway

February 18th, 2009

This is what LGBT people in Utah and in the Mormon church are up against. Utah State Senator Chris Buttars has joined Oklahoma State Rep. Sally Kern in citing gays as the greatest threat to America, in a comment he made in an upcoming documentary about Proposition 8. In late January,

Buttars sat for an interview with documentary maker and former ABC4 (KTVX, Salt Lake City) reporter Reed Cowan, in which he cited gays as possibly the greatest threat to America, and compares LGBT leaders to radical Muslims:

Homosexuality will always be a sexual perversion. And you say that around here now and everybody goes nuts. But I don’t care.”

…”They’re mean. They want to talk about being nice. They’re the meanest buggers I have ever seen.”

And just seconds later, Buttars draws a comparison between some gays and radical Muslims. “It’s just like the Muslims. Muslims are good people and their religion is anti-war. But it’s been taken over by the radical side.”

…Buttars: “What is the morals of a gay person? You can’t answer that because anything goes.”

And finally, this is how senator Buttars refers to the “radical gay movement.” “They’re probably the greatest threat to America going down I know of.”

Butters also claimed credit for killing every gay rights bill in the state legislature for the past 8 years.

Just one year ago, Buttars became the center of controversy when, during a debate over an education bill, he said, “This baby is black…this is a dark, ugly thing.” That drew condemnation from the NAACP. In this interview, he wasn’t much better, saying “the ACLU — bless their black hearts…”

Buttars was the director of the Utah Boys Ranch, (now West Ridge Academy), a Mormon reeducation camp located in West  Jordan, Utah, for fifteen years before retiring in 2005. Described by critics and former staff members as a Mormon Gulag, the LDS-affiliated camp has come under charges of sanctioning and promoting abuse among its inmates — err, clients:

Upon arrival, children are changed out of their regular clothes and into either a wool blanket – to be worn like a dress, with a rope leash to be tied around the waste – and t-shirt, or a t-shirt and Army pants. They are then delivered to what is called the “work crew” which, interestingly enough, is entirely missing from the Gulag’s marketing material and program description.

On Work Crew, despite the name, a lot of the time is spent standing completely still, facing a wall. Talking of any kind is certainly out of the question, as is moving – including scratching your nose – without permission. When children aren’t being forced to stand with their noses against a wall, they are often led around the facility – those donning Army surplus store wool blankets are led by their rope leashes – to do inane, demeaning types of labor. For example, gathering hundreds of rocks and boulders in a pile – just to move the pile to another location immediately after. Or digging ditches, and filling them back in, with plastic spoons.

Once a child is released from work crew – which could be weeks or months – they are given a pair of blue jeans to go with their green t-shirt. As a “green shirt” there is a considerable amount of time that is no longer spent facing the wall, but there is still no talking whatsoever. In order to earn the privilege of monitored verbal communication a child must carefully read the first book of the Mormon scriptures – First Nephi – and prove they have done so by “passing it off” to one of the Mormon missionaries on staff.

The child must also confess their sins to a Mormon Bishop in a “bishop’s interview” before changing into a “blue shirt” – which is as good as it gets in the Gulag. Green shirts are not allowed to sit on furniture or read anything besides Mormon canon.

Among specific allegations:

Chris Buttars ordered two large men to violently rip my clothes off, shave my head bald and made me walk around naked (my underwear was torn in struggle) with nothing but an army blanket for 2 weeks. My room mates whom I was locked in with were there for sexually molesting their younger brothers. I was 13 and I never recovered from my experiences there.

It was much worse than that but I can’t stand to describe it. I’d give anything to ask him ‘why?’

He allowed mentally ill children to grow up without any psychological treatment (mental illness in the boys ranch was defined as “the crazy act for attention”) He also turned a blind eye to prison justice against these kids in his boys ranch.

Update: We have the entire transcript of Buttars’ award-winning remarks here.