LDS Church Supports Salt Lake LGBT Protections
November 11th, 2009
Yes, you read that right:
Hours after the LDS Church announced its support Tuesday night of proposed Salt Lake City ordinances aimed at protecting gay and transgender residents from discrimination in housing and employment, the City Council unanimously approved the measures.
“The church supports these ordinances,” spokesman Michael Otterson told the council, “because they are fair and reasonable and do not do violence to the institution of marriage.”
The Mormon church has come under withering criticism over its overwhelming support in passing California’s Proposition 8, which stripped LGBT couples in that state the right to marry. The LDS’s massive efforts have led some to dub Prop 8 “The Mormon Amendment.” In addition to overall criticism, that campaign also proved to be highly divisive within the church itself.
Last year in the wake of that criticism, LDS leaders said that they had no problem with non-marriage related protections for LGBT people. In August 2008, the church issued a statement titled “The Divine Institution of Marriage” in which church leaders claimed to support “rights regarding hospitalization and medical care, fair housing and employment rights, or probate rights.” That spawned the “Common Ground” initiative, which consisted of a set of LGBT protections based on the LDS statement. But the LDS church turned around and blocked every single proposal in the state legislature which they had earlier said they could support.
LGBT leaders in Salt Lake City hail last night’s vote as a historic step, and the result of several months of quiet, behind-the-scenes meetings with church leaders. But noting that four-fifths of Utah’s LGBT citizens live outside the city, they vow to reintroduce the Common Ground proposals in the state legislature again this year.
Why the sudden turnaround after the Common Ground initiative failed to even make it out of committee in the state legislature last year? There are a couple of possibilities. First, Salt Lake City is not a Mormon bastion as the rest of the state is. Many former LDS people who wrote in to BTB this morning believe that this ordinance would have passed without LDS support. After all, this is the same city that has already instituted a domestic partnership registry. So by coming out in support of this ordinance, the reasoning goes, the church is able to turn what would have been seen as a defeat into positive publicity.
Meanwhile, others speculate that Senate Majority Leader Harry Ried (D-NV) and former presidential candidate Mitt Romney, both Mormons, may have played a hand. At any rate, the real test will be when the Common Ground initiative is brought back to the state legislature again next year.
According to the Salt Lake Tribune, the ordinances passed last night would:
- Forbid housing and employment discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity in Salt Lake City.
- Exempt religious organizations, businesses with fewer than 15 employees and some small landlords. (The exemptions mirror those in state and federal laws.)
- “Not create any special rights or privileges,” the ordinances state, because “every person has a sexual orientation and a gender identity.”
- Create a complaint and investigation process. The complaint could be resolved through mediation or a fine of up to $1,000.
- Not create a “private right of action” to sue over alleged discrimination.
- Require annual reports by the city’s Human Rights Commission on the effectiveness of the statutes.
We Know You Have Choices when it Comes to Air Travel…
October 29th, 2009
Lambda Legal is reporting that SkyWest, a Utah based airline, is denying travel benefits to the legal spouses of gay employees in California that they provide to the spouses of their straight employees. This is not only discriminatory and bigoted but it is also against California law.
I’ve inquired with SkyWest as to whether this is true. I’ll let you know what they say.
But, in the meantime, you may wish to carefully weigh your travel decisions and decide whether you wish to fly with an airline that does not consider you to be as valuable as the heterosexual in the next seat over.
But In Other Catholic News
October 23rd, 2009
It’s not all bad. Judge Memorial Catholic High School in Salt Lake City Catholic will go forward with its production of Rent, after the school’s superintendent reviewed the play at the request of the Bishop:
Sister Catherine Kamphaus, superintendent of schools in the Salt Lake City diocese, said she read the script at the request of Bishop John Wester, and she watched a dress rehearsal Tuesday.
“There is absolutely nothing that would be offensive,” Kamphaus said Thursday. “It wasn’t condoning the gay and lesbian lifestyle.”
Rather, she said, the play shows friends forming a loving and caring community while facing AIDS and other challenges. …The superintendent praised Judge’s use of the play as a springboard to teach about the Roman Catholic Church’s compassion for outcasts, the sick and the hopeless.
A special school edition of Rent bcame available in the past year. The school edition removes one song, “Contact,” along with profane language.
Too Offensive for Mormon Eyes
October 2nd, 2009
The Deseret News is a Utah newspaper directed towards Mormon readership. It is, in a way, the sectarian version of the Salt Lake Tribune, sharing the same advertising handler and providing discounts for ad spots placed in both papers.
But the Deseret News is careful to shield its readers from advertising that could offend Mormon sensibilities. And this week it has rejected just such an ad,with a message so outrageous that it was sure to offend. (Salt Lake Tribune)
The wording of this ad:
“Bring Them in From the Plains”
From Despair to Hope
The Foundation for Reconciliation
presents a Memorial Service, honoring LGBT suicide
victims as well as those who have successfully overcome
conflicts involving their sexual orientation and the LDS
Church. Join us for an evening of music and the spoken
word, including a special video appearance by actor
Yes, this is an ad by a Mormon group seeking to gain dialogue with other Mormons. This ad makes no attack on the church nor does it contain language that is contradictory to church dogma. In fact, the foundation made effort to be non-offensive.
Peter Danzig, a Salt Lake City spokesman for the foundation, called the newspaper ad “innocuous.”
“There’s nothing anti-Mormon,” he said. “We tried to create an event that would be welcoming to everyone on either side of the issue.”
But the ad does express sympathy for those who killed themselves over conflict involving their sexual orientation, and the church can’t have that!
So when officials at the Mormon Church assure you that they don’t hate you just because you are gay, be very very skeptical.
Kissing Scandal Update: Mormon Church Changes Signs
September 28th, 2009
As a result of the public response to the manhandling and roughing up of two gay men who shared a kiss in an open-access plaza owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons), the Church has updated the signage on the plaza. It now says
The Church reserves the right to refuse access to any person for any reason.
Like, oh I don’t know, being gay?
Gay Good Samaritan Acquitted of Kidnapping
September 27th, 2009
About 6:30 in the morning of July 4, 2008, David James “D.J.” Bell took his neighbors’ children, ages 2 and 4, into his South Salt Lake home. The neighbors were having an all night party and the children were wandering about unattended.
When Lulu Latu finally noticed her kids were missing, she went to Bell’s home. Finding the kids there, she become hysterical, screaming and slapping Bell. Minutes after she returned to her drinkfest, her fellow partiers broke down Bell’s door and assaulted Bell and Daniel Fair, his partner. (Salt Lake Tribune)
Bell was dragged from his home by his then-shoulder length hair and his head was repeatedly smashed against the pavement, [defense attorney Susanne] Gustin said. Blood was oozing from his right ear and he still suffers hearing loss, she said.
Someone used a piece of broken glass to cut Bell’s throat, chest and one of his toes.
Bell’s partner, Fair, also was beaten, and a large TV was thrown onto his head.
The District Attorney opted not to bring any assault charges in the case but instead charged Bell with kidnapping. Defense argued that this was an anti-gay hate crime and that had any other neighbor taken the children in they would have been thanked instead of beaten. (SLT)
[Defense attorney Roger] Kraft accused police of conducting a shoddy investigation, noting that 10 people who attended Latu’s party were never interviewed. Neither were four people at Bell’s home, even though they wanted to talk and provided police with their contact information.
Juror Jorgensen agreed that if the police investigation had been “handled properly, [they] would have come to a different conclusion on that day.”
In cases like these, it can be difficult to know whether there were extenuating circumstances, whether Lulu had reason to fear for her children’s safety with Bell, whether other neighborhood history was involved. Although I was tempted to see this as yet another illustration of how police assume that gay men are guilty until proven innocent in Utah, I hesitated at that time to form judgment.
But it seems the jury had far less difficulty, After acquitting Bell, the jurors told the Tribune that they were appalled at the lack of evidence and the waste in pressing charges.
Perhaps, after being rebuked by the jury, the district attorney may be willing to possibly consider caring whether it’s free-beating season on gay men in Salt Lake County.
Buju Banton Salt Lake City Concert Cancelled
September 15th, 2009
Buju Banton’s October 8 concert scheduled for the Urban Lounge in Salt Lake City has been cancelled. Club operators say they were unaware of his murder music lyrics when they booked him.
Caught On Video: LDS Security Guards Hauling Off Kissing Couple
July 31st, 2009
The Salt Lake City Tribune has posted video of security guards from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints confronting a gay couple after they kissed on the LDS plaza in Salt Lake City, Utah, on July 9, 2009. The video was made available through an open records request with Salt Lake City. Missing from the video clip is the couple’s kiss that started it all.
City prosecutors have dropped tresspassing charges against Derek Jones and Matt Aune because the church failed to properly mark the open plaza as private property.
A One Man Boycott
July 15th, 2009
One of our readers, Ben in Oakland, was solicited to do business with a company located in Utah. Still smarting from the interference of Utah Mormons in a California proposition in which members of the church contributed at least $20 million and 80-90% of all volunteers, Ben declined to do work with them, explaining as follows:
In the wake of Prop. 8, funded by the Mormon Church to enforce its theological beliefs upon my civil marriage, I have determined not to do business with any firm in Utah, if at all possible, and not to step inside of the state of Utah, which is entirely possible. You may not be a Mormon, or agree with what this church has to say about gay people. If so, I thank you for standing on the side of progress and religious freedom. And I apologize if this offends you.
As a gay man, my life has been severely impacted by the Mormon Church’s assertion that its set of religious beliefs trumps my civil rights as an American citizen, and that it has a valid reason for interfering in California’s civil law. I have urged my friends and correspondents not to do business with or in Utah if they can avoid it. Unfortunately, since the Church does not understand the concepts of religious freedom, tolerance, civil law, and minding your own business, perhaps it will understand economic pressure and social disapproval.
This may have an effect, it may not. I truly hope it does, but frankly, even if it doesn’t, it at least is serving to create consciousness that discrimination of the basis of religious belief has no place in America. Nor does prejudice, whether disguised as sincere religious belief, or admitted for what it is. People are understanding more and more that this is not about marriage, morality, faith, freedom of religion, the family, children, God’s word, or any other lying rationalization du jour. It is simply about what it has always been about: how much the very existence of gay people offends, entices, obsesses, and frightens some straight people, as well as those-who-wanna-be-straight-but-ain’t. This is why only a small shift in the vote– 2%– and Proposition 8 would have been history.
We’re here. We’re queer. Please get over yourself, LDS. It isn’t about you.
When this church stays the hell out of my civil marriage and my equality before the law, when it learns to stop telling lies about gay people and our families to advance its religious, political, and social agendas– in short, when it finally understands that to be respected, one must act respectably, that it cannot be purchased with the easy coin of other people’s lives–
At that point, if I still need your services, I’ll do business with you. Until then, I cannot.
This was their response:
I first want you to know and understand that I do not have a problem with the lifestyle you have chosen. It’s your life and right to live how you want, barring walking on another’s same given rights. Having made it clear to you that I have no problems with the way you have chosen to live your life, I would point out the hypocrisy in your decision not to do business with my company simply based off of our physical location. You feel that the Mormon church judges you, does not feel that you have a right to live how you have chosen, and has set you aside for things that are not necessarily changeable. You are now turning the same judgment to us. You will not do business with us because we live in the same state as the headquarters for the Mormon church. Forget that there are Mormons across the globe, forget that we are not connected to them as a business, forget that prop 8 is not completely funded by the Mormons, forget all of the logical points that could be used to refute your statement (which I have no intention of doing), and what are you left with? A gay man that actively stands up for his rights, that is willing to be heard, but cannot practice what he petitions for. How can you feel comfortable in the stand of anti-prejudice views and free rights when you hold for us (and every business like us in Utah) the same prejudice and judgment you feel are so wrongfully bestowed upon you?
Ben, if you want others to take you seriously in your beliefs and in what you stand for, start with showing others that you believe in the basic principals for which you fight, and not how they only apply to you as a gay man.
Ben has invited readers to share their thoughts on how he should react.
Personally, I’d advise dropping it.
You’ve made your point, Ben. They’ve lost a customer. This business, at least, has learned that there is a price to be paid for thrusting your religious views on others and actively harming their life.
And I’d not worry too much about their “but I don’t have a problem with the lifestyle you’ve chosen” statement. Theirs was the blustering of one who has been called on their bigotry and only has self-righteous posturing as a defense.
What do our readers think?
The Great Salt Lake City Kiss-In
July 12th, 2009
For a few hours on Sunday morning, the area near Salt Lake City’s LDS Temple became the gayest spot in the Beehive State. That’s when more than a hundred people, mostly gay but some straight supporters as well, gathered at the LDS Church’s Salt Lake Temple near Main Street Square to participate in a light-hearted protest against the LDS’s detention of a gay couple after one of them kissed the other on the cheek.The couple, Derek Jones and Matthew Aune, were detained Thursday on Main Street Square by LDS security guards.
LDS officials were not amused by Sunday’s show of support for the couple:
Several LDS Church security guards dressed in suits kept a watchful eye, and turned some protesters back when they tried to cross the church-owned plaza or walk onto the property to share a kiss.
Guards called police when protesters staged a walk onto the plaza, and officers stood to block the entrance.
“They were asked repeatedly not to come onto the property, and they chose to do so anyway,” said LDS church spokeswoman Kim Farah. Though a few people spoke in protest, there were no direct confrontations, and guards did not stop the protesters gathered past the property line.
The city sold Main Street Square in 2003 to the LDS church and it is now Mormon property, even though it is readily accessible as a public space.
Rep. Chaffetz: A Shining Illustration of Anti-Gay Intellect
July 8th, 2009
Representative Jason Chaffetz, a California Jewish Democrat turned Utah Mormon Republican, is now auditioning for the position of Congress’ Biggest Homophobe. As lead Congressional opponent to D.C.’s out-of-state marriage recognition bill he was strikingly inept, but he did manage to get some press by announcing:
“It’s not something I think we can just let go lightly into the night.”
Chaffetz got into BYU on a soccer scholarship so perhaps he can be forgiven for mangling Dylan Thomas’ poetry. But his other comments suggest that his approach to legislation is not particularly nuanced (abc4):
“Marriage should be defined as a union between a man and a woman. I don’t see much other wiggle room for it.”
This stance comes in a week where America’s fifth state legalized same sex marriages.
So, we asked the congressman whether he is going against a trend towards gay unions.
He said simply, “The trend is still 45 states don’t.”
Sorry, Jason, but a trend would be… oh, well… nevermind.
But now Jason has now found his cause. He has discovered that he can get the media’s attention by saying some rather, ummm, interesting things about gay folk. So he was quick to state his mind when he found that Rep. Tammy Baldwin wants to pass legislation that would give benefits to the domestic partners of federal employees. Baldwin thinks its a matter of equal compensation for equal work.
But Chaffetz called the legislation “directly discriminatory” against heterosexual couples that choose not to marry.
That argument didn’t get much traction with the other panel members who noted that gay couples don’t have the choice to marry in most states (including Utah). Rep. Gerry Connolly found his argument “a screaming contradiction”.
Ah, Jason. You haven’t yet figured out that everyone is laughing at you, have you?
Heterosexual Menace: Two Utah Teachers Seduce Same Young Boy
March 7th, 2009
Two Bountiful Junior High School teachers are accused of sexually assaulting the same 13-year-old student, after their separate relationships with him spiraled from personal conversations to the exchange of sexual text messages and phone sex, authorities said.
On Friday, the Davis County Attorney’s Office filed first-degree felony charges of rape and sodomy on a child against Linda R. Nef, 46, and Valynne Bowers, 39.
Nef, a Utah studies teacher and cheerleading adviser, and Bowers, who teaches math, each confessed to having sex with the student, said Bountiful Police Lt. Randy Pickett. Until recently, the two teachers did not know about each other’s relationship with the same boy, Pickett said.
According to Utah law, these two teachers can fight it out over who wins the affections of the thirteen-year-old student in another five years. And according to Utah law, that then-eighteen-year-old can even pick one and marry her, conviction and all (assuming it comes to that). But same sex partners don’t have the right to even visit each other in the hospital if one should fall seriously ill.
[Hat tip: reader Louie]
A Tale of Two Parties
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.
Utahns Really Love Their Online Porn
February 28th, 2009
Benjamin Edelman. “Red Light States: Who Buys Online Adult Entertainment?” Journal of Economic Perspectives 23, no. 1 (Winter 2009): 209-230. Available online here (PDF: 128 KB/12 pages).
The HBO series “Big Love” features a storyline where Bill Henrickson, the father of a polygamist fundamentalist Mormon family, is trying to enter the Indian gaming industry in Utah with a unique hook. In order to appeal to an underserved Mormon clientele which isn’t inclined to go to Las Vegas, the casino would present a more wholesome environment. No alcohol or risque entertainment, but customers would get free lemonade, for example.
That, of course, is fiction. In real life a recent study by Harvard University’s Benjamin Edelman suggests that the porn industry is already doing well in the Utah market without having to make any accomodations at all..
A new national study based on data from a top-ten online adult entertainment provider reveals that Utah has the highest per-capita consumption of online porn in the nation. But it’s not just Utah. More generally, states that generally more conservative and religious are also among the best consumers of online porn.
There was a time when purchasing porn required traveling to a seedy bookstore on the bad side of town. But since the mid-1990′s, the Internet has changed all that. Pornography today is as easy to get as a book from Amazon.com. And with the explosion of broadband, delivering the more sought-after video content is easier than every before.
Since many of these porn sites offer monthly subscriptions, credit cards can provide a convenient tracking mechanism for studying visitors’ online behavior. Edelman obtained anonymized credit card data from a top-ten online porn provider which operates hundreds of web sites, and correlated that data with Zip code information to create his state-by-state analysis. While it’s impossible to know how representative this provider’s customer base is, they run literally hundreds of web sites offering a very wide variety of adult entertainment.
This study found that 36% of Internet users visit at least one adult web site each month, with each visit lasting an average of 11.6 minutes. And of those who visit at least one adult site per month, the average such users visit adult website 7.7 times per month. By looking at zip code information, the authors were able to come to some rather surprising conclusions.
It turns out that by every measure, the state of Utah is the highest per-capital consumer of online porn. Based on per-thousand Internet and Internet broadband users, the top ten and bottom ten breakdowns look like this:
|Per thousand home Internet users||Per thousand home broadband users|
The figures for broadband users are particularly notable since having high-speed access is critical to accessing online porn. According to Edelman, “As of June 2008, broadband users outnumber narrowband users 18 to 1 at sites that comScore classifies as adult.” That makes sense, since dial-up users are much less likely to endure the long download times required for video or high quality images. This may explain why Mississippi, which has limited availability for broadband statewide, comes in at number three for broadband users, but doesn’t even break into the top ten among Internet users generally. West Virginia is dead last among internet users overall, but rockets to number ten when dial-up customers are excluded.
When looking at broadband porn consumption trends nationwide, the map looks like this:
Some observers suggest that this study indicates a red state/blue state divide in porn consumption. Edelman did his analysis before the 2008 elections, but he did look at the 2004 presidential results where he couldn’t find any significance based on poll data by Congressional district.
But the 2008 electoral map at the state level does show that of the ten highest porn-consuming states, eight went for John McCain. And of the twenty-nine states in the lowest two porn-consumption categories (2.7 subscriptions per thousand broadband users or less), nineteen (66%) went for Barack Obama. It would be interesting to know whether there’s a correlation between porn and political leanings at the Congressional district level for 2008.
That said, Edelman did find some interesting characteristics for states with higher religiosity and more conservative values:
…[I]n regions where more people report regularly attending religious services (per National Election Studies 2004) … a statistically significantly smaller proportion of subscriptions begin on Sundays, compared with other regions. In particular, a 1 percent increase in the proportion of people who report regularly attending religious services is associated with a 0.10 percent reduction in the proportion of purchases that occur on Sunday. This analysis suggests that, on the whole, those who attend religious services shift their consumption of adult entertainment to other days of the week, despite on average consuming the same amount of adult entertainment as others.
…In the 27 states where “defense of marriage” amendments have been adopted (making same-sex marriage, and/or civil unions unconstitutional), … there were 0.2 more subscribers to this adult web site per thousand broadband households, 11 percent more than in other states.
And then there’s this:
…In states where more people agree that “Even today miracles are performed by the power of God” and “I never doubt the existence of God,” there are more subscriptions to this service. Subscriptions are also more prevalent in states where more people agree that “I have old-fashioned values about family and marriage” and “AIDS might be God’s punishment for immoral sexual behavior.”
Those comparisons broke down like this:
- States where the majority agreed with the statement, “I have old-fashioned values about family and marriage,” bought 3.60 more subscriptions per thousand people than states where a majority disagreed.
- States where the majority agreed with the statement, “AIDS might be God’s punishment for immoral sexual behavior,” bought 3.56 more subscriptions per thousand people.
- States where the majority agreed with the statement, “Even today miracles are performed by the power of God” bought 2.74 more subscriptions per thousand people.
- States where the majority agreed with the statement, “I never doubt the existence of God” also bought 2.74 more subscriptions per thousand people.
Utah Dems, Activists Demand More Action On Buttars
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.
More Proof: Buttars Sanctioned for Being An Embarrasment, Not for Being A Bigot
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
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.
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?
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
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.
..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
February 20th, 2009
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.”