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Feb 19, 2009
You may remember that we touched on Utah Governor Jon Huntsman’s favorable stance on gay civil rights last week and the heated debate his stance has caused, and now more controversy has surfaced in Utah as a conservative group called America Forever launched an ad campaign at the weekend that likens gays and lesbians to “druggies and hookers”.

The America Forever Ad In Detail

The ad was taken out in two newspapers, the Salt Lake Tribune and the Desert News. It contains a headline calling for people to “Stand Up and Stop The Homosexual Movement” and then goes on to state that the Governor Hunstman wants to turn gay people into an “untouchable” class with his civil partnership and protections bill, collectively called the Common Ground Initiative, and also accurately pointing out that “homosexuality is not a race” with that caption placed under a picture of a black man and white man kissing. Well, at least they’re getting along.

The ad alleges that under the Common Ground Initiative, LGBT people would have more rights than the rest of Utah’s citizens. Governor Huntsman had already refuted this in a previous statement where he suggested that the bill was about extending protections to LGBT people that were basic civil rights.

The ad also launches an attack at the “homosexual agenda” and how those of the LGBT community have attempted to “silence” those who don’t agree with their lifestyle. It contains claims that America Forever have also found a “Homosexual Declaration of War” which is, as Box Turtle Bulletin points out, a piece of satire written by Jonathon Swift. Somehow, they forgot to include the source of the declaration.

To view the full add, please click here.

Many have called the advertisement offensive and some gay rights opponents such as Republican Carl Wimmer have even come out against, who, whilst agreeing with America Forever on the subject of maintaining a traditional stance on marriage, says, “Everything they're doing crosses the line… they make those of us who are on the side of traditional marriage -- they make a lot of us -- look bad.”

Why Did The Paper Publish The Ads?
Closely linked with the First Amendment rights and religious freedom of speech post earlier this week, the Salt Lake Tribune’s editor Nancy Conway, who didn’t see the ad until it was published, was adamant in drawing a line between the paper’s own opinions and that of the general community who are allowed, under the First Amendment, to put out ads and opinion pieces. She said, “We would be hypocrites, really, if we didn't allow expression.” It is estimated that America Forever may have paid anything up to $15,000 for the two page ad.

The Context of the Ads
The Utah Legislature heard three bills this week, HB288, which would have allowed cohabiting couples, including LGBT people, to be able to adopt; HB267, which would have given LGBT Utah citizens protection from being discriminated against at work, as well as HB160 which would allow two cohabiting adults both inheritance rights and rights of attorney by default in situations such as medical decision making.

HB288 and HB267 failed to pass on Tuesday of this week, with Republican Representative Stephen Sandstrom saying of HB288 “Adoption is not a right, it's a privilege. Those who choose alternative lifestyles suffer the consequences because they can't naturally produce between them.”

HB160, who’s fate was decided Wednesday, also failed to pass Legislature, however, Mike Thompson, executive director of Equality Utah, was hopeful that when they return next year with a slightly amended Common Ground Initiative, adding “The majority of Utahns support these basic protections.”

In contrast to this, and following the defeat of the bills, the Utah Senator Chris Buttars called the gay rights cause &ldquorobably the greatest threat to America” when interviewed for a segment of Salt Lake City’s KTVX. He later went on to say that gay people have no morals, and commented on a particular type of homosexual activity that the station didn’t feel it could broadcast due to taste and decency.
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Posted: Feb 19, 2009 4:00am
Feb 13, 2009
Governor Jon M. Huntsman Jr., of Utah State, made a bold announcement this week when he decided to commit to a civil partnership bill, in spite of a recent survey that found 70% of Utah citizens are against the measure. Subsequently, vehement protests were held outside the State Capitol, with pro-family lobbyists crying injustice, and saying that it was “time for the homosexual agenda to stop”. Some campaigners wore shirts baring the slogan “gays are anti-species,” whilst others were quick to distance themselves from any anti-gay remarks, saying that the demonstration was in fact about being &ldquoro-family.”

Reactions to Governor Jon Huntsman's Actions in Utah

Conservative groups are especially angered as Utah actually bans gay marriages under Amendment 3 of its law, passed in 2004, which defines marriage as being between a man and a woman. Gov. Huntsman also endorsed Amendment 3 at the time of its passing. Conservatives are worried any move allowing domestic partnerships would violate Amendment 3 and pave the way for same-sex marriage, however Gov. Jon Huntsman finds no such conflict, saying that the measure would simply be “enhancing equal rights for more of our citizens."

What Does the Bill Contain?
It should be clarified that the bill is not aimed at legitimizing same-sex partnerships exclusively, but rather extends rights to all kinds of co-habiting couples to offer them protections against such legal sticking points as inheritance of an estate should a partner die and other such gray areas.

The bill was split into three sections, but the first part that directly went in opposition of Amendment 3 has been dropped since its conception. The remaining two parts, HB160 and HB267, strengthen cohabiting relationships as a whole, whilst HB276 focuses on protecting LGBT people from being victimized and discriminated against in the work place and in day to day life.

The strength of reaction against Gov. Jon Huntsman’s support for the bill is unsurprising. The Church of Latter Day Saints counts around 60% of Utah citizens amongst its followers, and gave heavily to the Californian Proposition 8 which rendered gay marriages illegal.

A Calculated Move by the Utah Govenor?

But could there be a greater motive behind Jon Huntsman ignoring the people of Utah and endorsing the measure? Up to this point, Jon Huntsman has proven to be one of Utah’s most popular Governors, and although he has bucked trends in the past, he has largely fallen into line with Republican rhetoric throughout his career. It has been confirmed however, that even with an eighty percent approval rating prior and a re-election to his name, Jon Huntsman does not plan to serve as Utah Governor again with Representative Jon Dougall, R-Highland telling the Desert News, “He's moving to a national agenda."

In this Gov. Jon Huntsman has made it known that he would put himself forward as the Republican Candidate for the Presidential nomination in 2012. Could this bill, which falls short of gay marriage but is seen as a positive step by gay groups, be his way of setting the tone for that nomination?

As some have cited, Huntsman’s support for Amendment 3 was, in the first place, somewhat lack-luster, so could this be Gov. Huntsman’s way of marking himself off as a moderate Republican, whilst still trying to keep many of his Utah faithful at his side. After all, he hasn’t actually done anything to weaken Amendment 3 in endorsing the now amended bill, but has, instead, extended basic civil rights and protections to couples that fall outside of traditional marriage. The bill is vague, and it is probably so for that exact reason. And whilst a vocal band of people have reacted against the bill, it is claimed by Gov. Huntsman’s staff that they have received far more praise than complaint, even with the demonstrations outside their offices accounted for.

Whether this was a carefully calculated political move or not, gay rights groups in Utah have praised the decision, with Mike Thompson from Equality Utah, saying, "Let's not be distracted by the controversy. This is not about marriage. The fact that someone can lose their job or be evicted from their home has nothing to do with marriage." (Standard.net; 12th Feb 2008)
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Posted: Feb 13, 2009 8:23am

 

 
 
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