Among all of the controversial topics right now, gay marriage is eclipsed by none. It has people divided the nation over, claiming dogma over personal choice, or individuality over social construction.
This topic hit close to home with the recent ruling of gay marriage to be constitutional in Utah, which was promptly stifled by Gov. Gary Herbert. How? That’s a very good question. Perhaps it’s similar to the boy on the playground who takes his ball and goes home, leaving everyone else on the ever-existent field wondering what just happened.
The Utah Senate tabled Senate Bill 100 this month. To clarify, this was not a bill on gay marriage. This was a bill on anti-discrimination laws to be enacted statewide. As it stands now, a person can be fired without any cause, as long as they are gay. That seems a bit backward, doesn’t it? For such a religious state, it would behoove the Senate to pass a bill that showed equality, never mind charity.
The issue is not that the bill was voted down — it’s that the Senate didn’t even hear it. They tabled the entire bill, written by St. George Sen. Steven H. Urquhart. Open debate and policy reform (or lack thereof) is one thing, but to not even consider the proposal of a nondiscrimination bill is, amidst all other adjectives, cowardly.
While the state may be divided on gay marriage, it is not divided on issues of discrimination. A recent Dan Jones poll showed that 72 percent of Utahns were in favor of changing the discriminatory laws to include protections for sexual orientation (http://www.ksl.com/?sid=28443021). Another 5 percent was indifferent, leaving only 23 percent of the state opposed to such action. Apparently 23 percent of the population serves in the Utah Senate.
Given that the state government is responsible for representing and legislating laws according to its constituents, how can the senate possibly not hear such a bill? Fifteen demonstrators also had that question, blocking the doors on Capitol Hill until they were answered. Instead of answers, they were forcibly removed from the premises, some in handcuffs. Was this Salt Lake City, or Sochi? We forget.
The question on the tip of everyone’s tongue is the same: “Why would you not hear the bill?” The gay marriage debacle is going through the appellate courts in Colorado as this is being printed. An official stance on acceptance of the LGBT community could sway that outcome. Would the Senate really deny basic protection to this community in the slim hopes of winning a case in an appellate court? They answered this question for us already when they slid the bill into the decorative legislative trash can.
To all senators on the hill, and to all sound-minded constituents statewide — nondiscrimination is not the same as gay marriage. They are fundamentally different. To say they are the same is as erroneous and laughable as it is unintelligible. The citizens of this state deserve better. They deserve choices, not inaction. To say otherwise denies the premise of constitutional government and the spirit of democracy. So, Senate, gird up your loins and make a decision not to be cowards, but to represent your people. Anything less is unacceptable.