The Plight of the American Gay…

Equality UtahHowdy Y’all (I’m allowed to say that, I’m American!)

Last night, Stephen and I returned from a trip back to Salt Lake City, Utah to visit my family & friends.  It was a fantastic trip full of fun times… but it also served as a harsh reminder of just how much better us homos have it north of the border.

Everyone is familiar with some of the fights being fought south of the border when it comes to Gay & Civil rights.  Things like Prop 8 have been all over the news and have thrown states like California into world news… but there’s more going on than just that (not to say Prop 8 isn’t important, because overturning that piece of hateful, discriminatory legislation is paramount for California and for getting the US on track with Civil Rights in general).

Equality Utah is an organization in Utah whose vision is “A fair and just Utah” and who is spearheading the Common Ground Initiative. This initiative introduced 5 new bills to the Utah Senate at the end of January.  These bills address issues such as hospital visitation rights, landlord/employer discrimination of gay people and probate rights.

Not a single one of the bills passed.

Leading the charge to defeat these bills was Senator Chris Buttars, a Republican who represents the district spanning South Jordan, West Jordan and Herriman (south-westerly suburbs of the Greater Salt Lake area).  There are numerous things that can be laid at the feet of this hateful man.  He co-sponsored Utah Constitutional Amendment 3 which defines marriage in Utah as only between a man and a woman, created legislation to get rid of gay-straight alliances in schools (citing that they weren’t clubs, they were recruiting stations… John Briggs anyone?) and introducing a bill to prevent any city or county in Utah from operating any sort of domestic partnership registery, stating that it would violate Amendment 3.

Buttar’s most recent successes in promoting discrimination & hate come in the form of comments made during an interview for a documentary in which he equates gay people with “radical Muslims” (which he refers to as “Moslems”), and indicates that they (gay people) are the single biggest threat to bringing down America.  You can hear audio of the full interview here – which I definitely recommend, however here are a few excerpts:

  • “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.”
  • “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.”
  • “What is the morals of a gay person? You can’t answer that because anything goes.”
  • “They’re probably the greatest threat to America going down I know of.”

In the aftermath of these comments, Buttars has been removed from the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice, as well as the Senate Judicial Confirmation Committee, however he is sticking by his comments like only a maniacal person could.  During the interview, he also makes comments about sexual practices in the gay community that “would make you sick. They do things that just… it’s unthinkable.”

Now, having lived in Vancouver, BC for the past 4 years and experiencing the equality that we enjoy here… you can imagine my disappointment in the place where my roots are. Frankly, I was shocked that someone like Buttars could get elected – anywhere. It was also shocking for me to listen to the comments he was making and how closely they resemble those made by John Briggs & Anita Bryant 30 years ago.

The saddest part is that Utah is not alone in this type of struggle. Of course Utah is a bit of an anomaly in general due to the Mormon influence there – but there are just as backwards views in other places in the US.  During the same time that Proposition 8 was on the ballot in California, similar bans were passed in Arkansas and Florida.  Even more important is that gay issues are still missing on the Federal level as well, such as immigration for married couples where gay marriage is legal.

The challenges in the US for the GLBT community can have a positive side-effect, however.  Struggle and purpose bind people together with a common cause. Using Utah as a specific example (since I can speak from experience there), the idea of “community” is much stronger with the gay community there than I have experienced here in Canada.  Because there is inequity when it comes to Civil rights for gay people they are bound together with a common cause to create change.  This binding manifests itself with increased involvement within the community, through people reaching out to each other for support.

This is all to the good, since binding together is the only way people like Chris Buttars will be forced out of positions of power.

I should make a couple of other call-outs quickly as well… Utah actually has an openly gay Senator currently in office. Senator Scott McCoy represents a portion of Salt Lake County and is the state’s first openly gay state senator.  He works extremely hard at making Utah a better place and is to be commended.

Likewise, if you’ve listened to the interview referenced above, Buttars mentions a “the church” frequently, which clearly is in reference to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (aka Mormons). The church released this comment in response to the interview:

“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.”

Lastly, I’ll try and be a little more “upbeat” in future posts… but this really chapped my hide.  I should also mention that Buttars shouldn’t be considered representative of the people of Utah as a whole. Sure, he’s an elected official, but he only represents a portion of the State.  Stephen and I just spent 4 days in Utah where we spent time with my family (who are members of the LDS church) and they welcomed us both with open arms. Utah also has a very healthy gay community and is a really fun place to visit (especially if you like the outdoors).

Until next time…